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expedient, therefore, that they should be relieved from the cares and toil connected with the possession of territorial estates, and devote their whole attention to the service of the altar and the instruction of the people.
To effect these wise purposes, it was necessary that the members of this learned body should not be confined to one particular district, but that they should be distributed among all the other tribes, according to the extent of their several inheritances and the amount of their population. With this view the law provided that a certain number of cities should be set apart for them, together with such a portion of soil as might seem requisite for their comfort and more immediate wants. "Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites, of the inheritance of their possession, cities to dwell in; and ye shall give unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them. And ye shall measure from without the city, on the east side, two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities. So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and-eight cities; them shall ye give with their suburbs."*
It was not till after the conquest and division of Canaan that the provisions of this enactment were practically fulfilled. When the other tribes were settled in their respective possessions, the children of Levi reminded Joshua of the arrangement made by his predecessor, and claimed cities to dwell in, and suburbs for their cattle. The justice of their appeal being admitted, the Levitical stations were distributed as follows,
In the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin..... 13
In Zebulun, Reuben, and Gad,...
Every reader of the Bible is aware, that six of these cities were invested with the special right of affording
* Numbers xxxv. 2, 5, 7.
refuge and protection to a certain class of criminals. The Jewish doctors maintain that this privilege, somewhat limited, belonged to all the forty-eight; for, being sacred, no act of revenge or mortal retaliation was permitted to take place within their gates. Into the six cities of refuge, properly so called, the manslayer could demand admittance, whether the Levites were disposed to receive him or not; and on the same ground he was entitled to gratuitous lodg ing and maintenance, until his cause should be determined by competent judges. It is added, that they could exercise a discretionary power as to the reception of a homicide into any other of their cities, and even in respect to the hire which they might demand for the house used by him during his temporary residence. But the institution of Moses, afterward completed by Joshua, affords no countenance to these rabbinical distinctions; and we have no reason whatever to believe that the benefit of asylum was granted to any Levitical town besides Hebron, Shechem, Ramoth, Bezer, Kedesh, and Golan.*
As learning and the several professions connected with the knowledge of letters were confined almost exclusively to the tribe of Levi, the distribution of its members throughout the whole of the Hebrew commonwealth was attended with many advantages. Every Levitical city became at once a school and a seat of justice. There the language, the traditions, the history, and the laws of their nation were the constant subjects of study, pursued with that zeal and earnestness which can only arise from the feeling of a sacred obligation, combined with the impulse of an ardent patriotism. Within their walls were deposited copies of their religious, moral, and civil institutions; which it was their duty not only to preserve, but to multiply. They kept, besides, the genealogies of the tribes; in which they marked the lineage of every family who could trace their descent to the father of the faithful. Being carefully instructed in the law, and possessed of the annals of their people from the earliest days, they were well qualified to supply the courts with magistrates and scribes, men who were fitted not only to administer justice, but also to frame a record of all their decisions. It is perfectly clear that, in
* Joshua xx. 7, 8. Numbers xxxv. 6, 15. Deut. xix. 4, 10
the reign of David and of the succeeding kings, the judges and other legal officers were selected from among the Levites; there being in those days not fewer than six thousand of this learned body who held such appointments.
Michaelis represents the Levitical law among the Hebrews in the light of a literary noblesse; enjoying such a degree of wealth and consideration as to enable them to act as a counterpoise to the influence of the aristocracy; while, on the other hand, they prevented the adoption of those hasty measures which were sometimes to be apprehended from the democratical nature of the general government. They were not merely a spiritual brotherhood, but professional members of all the different faculties; and by birth obliged to devote themselves to those branches of study, for the cultivation of which they were so liberally rewarded. Like the Egyptian priesthood, they occupied the whole field of literature and science; extending their inquiries to philosophy, theology, natural history, mathematics, jurisprudence, civil history, and even medicine. Perhaps, too, it was in imitation of the sages of the Nile that the Hebrews made these pursuits hereditary in a consecrated tribe; whence flowed this obvious advantage, that the sons of the Levites, from the very dawn of reason, were introduced to scientific researches, and favoured with a regulated system of tuition suited to the occupation in which their lives were to be spent. In short, the institution bears upon it all the marks of that wisdom for which the Mosaical economy is so remarkably distinguished, when viewed as the basis of a government at once civil, religious, and political.*
The youngest reader of the Sacred Volume cannot fail to have perceived, that the character and government of the Hebrew judges withdraw the attention from the ordinary course of human events, and fix it on the marvellous or supernatural. These personages were raised up by the special providence of God, to discharge the duties of an office which the peculiar circumstances of a chosen people from time to time rendered necessary; and the various gifts with which they were endowed, as they constituted the main ground of vocation to their high employment, so were
Michaelis's Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. art. 52. Jablonsky Panth. Ægypt. Prolegomena, 21, 41, 43.
they suited to the difficulties that they had to overcome, and to the achievements they were called to perform. The sanctity of their manners did not, indeed, in all cases correspond to the dignity of their station; and the miracles which they wrought for the welfare of their country were not always accompanied with self-restraint and the due subordination of their passions. Their military exploits were worthy of the highest admiration; while, in some instances, their private conduct calls forth only our surprise and regret. For examples of heroism and bravery, we can with confidence point to Gideon, to Samson, and to Jephthah; but there is not in their character anything besides that a father could recommend to the imitation of his son, or that a lover of order and pureness of living would wish to see adopted in modern society. We observe, in the greater number of them, uncommon and even supernatural powers of body, as well as of mind, united with the gross manners and fierce passions of barbarians. We applaud their patriotism, admire their courage and talent in the field, and even share in the delight which accompanied their triumphs; yet, when we return to their dwellings, we dare not inspect too narrowly the usages of their domestic day, nor examine into the indulgences with which they sometimes thought proper to remunerate the toils and cares of their public life. Divine Wisdom, stooping to the imperfection of human nature, employed the instruments that were best fitted for the gracious ends which, by their means, were about to be accomplished; though it does not appear to have been intended that mankind should ever resort to the history of the Judges for lessons of decorum, humanity, or virtue.
Historical Outline from the Accession of Saul to the Destruction of Jerusalem.
Weakness of Republican Government-Jealousy of the several Tribes -Resolution to have a King-Rules for regal Government-Character of Saul-Of David-Troubles of his Reign-Accession of SolomonErection of the Temple-Commerce-Murmurs of the People-Rehoboam-Division of the Tribes-Kings of Israel--Kingdom of Judah -Siege of Jerusalem-Captivity-Kings of Judah-Return from Babylon-Second Temple-Canon of Scripture-Struggles between Egypt and Syria-Conquest of Palestine by Antiochus-Persecution of Jews-Resistance by the Family of Maccabæus-Victories of Judas --He courts the Alliance of the Romans-Succeeded by Jonathan-Origin of the Asmonean Princes--John Hyrcanus--AristobulusAlexander Jannæus-Appeal to Pompey-Jerusalem taken by Romans --Herod created King by the Romans-He repairs the Temple-Archelaus succeeds him, and Antipas is nominated to Galilee-Quirinius Prefect of Syria--Pontius Pilate-Elevation of Herod Agrippa-Disgrace of Herod Philip Judea again a Province-Troubles-Accession of Young Agrippa-Felix-Festus-Floris-Command given to Vespasian-War-Siege of Jerusalem by Titus.
THE weakness and jealousy which seem inseparable from a government comprehending a number of independent states, had been deeply felt during the administration of Eli, and even under that of Samuel in his latter days. Established in different parts of the country, the several tribes were actuated by local interests and selfish views; those in the north, who were exempted from the hostile inroads of the Philistines and Ammonites, refusing to aid their brethren, the children of Simeon and Judah, whose territory was constantly exposed to the ravages of those warlike neighbours. In the time of the more recent judges, the federal union on which the Hebrew commonwealth was founded appeared practically dissolved. Nay, a spirit of rivalry and dissension occasionally manifested itself among the kindred communities of which it was composed;-Ephraim, stimulated by envy, vexed Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim.*
*Isaiah xi. 13.