« ZurückWeiter »
in the eyes of her powerful brother; and that it far exceeded, in moral courage and consistency, the bearing of the weaker one, is attested in the text, by Aaron's lowly concession to Moses, and penitential acknowledgment of his seditious errors; "wherein" (he says, alluding to Miriam and himself) "we have done foolishly, and wherein we have sinned."
Aaron thus purchased his forgiveness, and obtained it. Not so Miriam, who must have acted on a strong conviction, (though, as it should seem, an erroneous one) and she offered no recantation. She was accordingly alone condemned to suffer that dreadful punishment, which struck her down physically and morally to the earth. Shut out from the camp of her people, abandoned to the solitary liberty of the desert, under the most horrible bodily suffering, she may there have recalled the scene on the shores of the Nile, the ark of rushes, and the tender stratagem by which she had saved the life of her now awful brother; and, in the bitterness of her spirit, may have reproached him with having rendered hers an infliction, and a curse!
It is said "that the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again;" but from that time forth, except when her example is held out as a warning, and a threat,* the priestess, prophetess, and patriot, is heard of no more, until the record of her death! She died in Kadish in the wilderness of Zin, and yielded up her brave spirit, within view of that blessed land, to which she had so mainly contributed to lead her people. Her tomb, a national monument, stood near the city of Petrea, and was considered a consecrated spot, even so recently as when Eusebius lived and wrote.† Moses, her brother nursling, and her master, followed soon after; "But no man knoweth of his sepulchre to this day."+
Ere Moses however finished his sacred mission, he originated many laws relating to women, which testified their increasing importance, from the time of their departure
*"Remember what the Lord did unto Miriam, by the way, after that she came forth out of Egypt;" notwithstanding the dreadful punishment of Miriam, the rebellion of Korah speedily followed.
† In the fourth century.
Deut. chap. xxiv.
from Egypt. Forty years' wandering in the desert, sharing with the men their dangers and their hardships, and submitting to more than their privations,* might have awakened a sense of intellectual equality, which Asiatic institutes did not tolerate, nor the jealousy of polygamy admit and though the women were frequently complimented with the name of "wives," it was still deemed expedient by their lords and legislators to restrict their intellectual aspirations and civil liberties.†
They were, therefore, prohibited by the severest penalties from holding intercourse with the women of other nations. "In the trial of jealousy, the suspected woman could only be cleared by a miraculous interposition in her favour;"" and a witch was not permitted to live," (for in all times there were "witches" among the Hebrew women). One of the laws promulgated by Moses in the plains of Moab, by Jordan near Jericho, was "concerning heiresses." The great legislator anticipated, in his wisdom, the consequences of wealth falling into the hands of women, and being thus placed at the disposal of her affections, beyond the control of her male relatives. This was a dangerous power, which, by enabling her to marry among strangers, would decrease the temporal means of her own people. He decreed, therefore, that heiresses should" marry in their own tribe," so that no part of an ancient inheritance might be alienated from the original family. The women of the poor, indeed, might marry where they listed; but to no class did there appear to be
*The progress which the women had made in the arts, both of refinement and of utility, was proved by their contributions to the tabernacle. "All the women that were wise-hearted did spin by their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen."-Exodus, xxxv. An allusion is also made to a texture resembling the Cachmere shawl of the present day. "And all the women whose hearts stirred them up to wisdom spun goat's hair." It appears, also, that the sexes sometimes changed character; and that the women adopted the male attire to go to battle, is proved by a prohibition of Moses.-Deuteronomy, chap. xxii. Josephus's version of this passage is, "take care above all things that in war the women may not habit themselves as men, and that no man shall habit himself as a woman."Book iv. chap. viii.
†That the women of the Hebrews had begun to consider their claims to civil rights and to contend for them, is clearly proved by the appeal of the daughters of Zelophehad, to the justice of Moses, after the death of their father.
any exclusion of daughters from sharing in the heritage of their father's house, either through the bestowal of gifts in their father's lifetime, or by sharing in the inheritance at his death. "The inconvenience of the inheritance of daughters" (for such the men of the Hebrews considered it) was thus remedied; but their right to it could not be set aside, since God himself had pronounced in their favour.* "This is the thing which the Lord doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry."
"And every daughter that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father; then the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers."
"Even as the Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad."
These laws arose out of the claims which the orphan daughters of Zelophehad made, not only to the inheritance of their father, but to his name. Nothing is more striking in the noble story of the Hebrew women, than the description of these parentless girls (" five in number") presenting themselves before the great tribunal of their nation, and thus stating their claims "as they stood before Moses, and before Eleazer the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation by the door of the tabernacle, saying, Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died in his own sin, and had no sons.'
"Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? give us, therefore, a possession among the brethren of our father.'
"And Moses brought their cause before the Lord, and the Lord spake unto Moses, saying: The daughters of Zelophehad speak right. Thou shalt surely give them possession of an inheritance among their father's brethren, and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them." "+
* Numbers, xxxvi. verse 6, 7, 8.
+ Numbers, chap. xxvii.
Women of the Hebrews under the Judges. Deborah.
WHEN Moses celebrated the last great act of his miraculous mission on Mount Tabor, within view of the city of Jericho, he appointed Joshua, the most experienced of the great captains of the host, and Eleazer, the high priest, as rulers over a people he himself had found it so difficult to govern. From that memorable epoch, to the peace of forty years, which followed the taking of Canaan from Jabin, the annals of Israel were steeped in blood; and the conquest of Jericho, which opened the land of promise to the descendants of Abraham, was effected under such cruel circumstances, as proved that the predatory habits, and "forty battles" of the Hebrews, had done little for the interests of humanity, or civilisation.
When Jericho fell, no sex, no age, no rank, was spared by the exterminating sword of the merciless besiegers: all were put to death, save one woman and her familyan humble woman,† of the lowest class, and not of the best repute, who having received two wayfaring strangers under the protection of her roof, refused to give them up to the tardy suspicions of the government, thus saving the lives of her guests at the risk of her own.
These stranger guests of the generous Rahab were the Jewish spies, who returned safely to their camp, with that valuable information, which, as far as human science went, gave the victory to Joshua. That the Hebrew captains
* "Would to God that we had died in the land of Egypt, or that we had died in this wilderness," was the constant burthen of the Jewish murmurs.-Numbers.
† Josephus describes Rahab as the mistress of an inn.-Book v. According to Josephus, the Jewish spies were considered by the people of Jericho as strangers, whom curiosity alone had brought to visit the city; and they were thus permitted to examine its weak and strong places, its walls and gates, and to discover which of the latter would be the easiest surprised.-Book v. chap. i.
believed themselves deeply indebted to Rahab, was proved by their remembering, even in the heat of the ferocious attack, the promise made to her by their secret agents, "to save her and those she loved in the hour of peril :" she having exacted from them in return for her services that they should save alive her father and her mother, and her brothers and her sisters,-a true woman's covenant, whose affections went before all interests; for what might not Rahab have demanded!
From the taking of Jericho till the subjection of the Israelites under the yoke of the Assyrians, and again (after a temporary success) by the Moabites, the Jewish chroniclers, sacred and profane, record a state of society dreadful to contemplate: "The sword without, and terror within,"* crimes the most atrocious, perpetrated under circumstances, the most disgusting, and a reckless cruelty in perpetual activity, "which destroyed both the young man and the virgin, the suckling and the old man of gray hairs." All that Moses had prophesied to the Israelites, as the inevitable result of their wayward obstinacy, and their indomitable pride, came to pass;† and that dreadful prediction was fulfilled to the letter and in the spirit.
Moral dissolution and political degradation succeeded, in their fullest extent, to their proud conquests over Canaan. Luxury and wealth introduced corruption and disunion among the tribes, broke down the national spirit, and fomented civil war. "Their corruption was beyond that of their fathers, for they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn ways."
Disobedience to their laws, desertion of their altars, brutality to woman, and treachery to man, filled up the measure of "the wickedness" of the new generation after Joshua, so "that the anger of the Lord was hot. against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of the spoilers and spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies."
* Deuteronomy, xxxii.
"For I know their imagination which they go about, even now before I have brought them into the land which I sware."-Deut.