Owen C. (Owen Charles) Whitehouse.

A primer of Hebrew antiquities online

. (page 1 of 11)
Online LibraryOwen C. (Owen Charles) WhitehouseA primer of Hebrew antiquities → online text (page 1 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook








Leo Newmark

present 2>ag primers




Principal and Professor of Hebrew ', Cheshunt College









1. Definition of the subject and general principles . . 7



2. The Hebrew family. Father, mother. Marriage . 10

3. Marriage customs, wedding ceremonies . . .14

4. Position of the wife. Divorce . . . . 17

5. Children. Circumcision. Naming. Weaning.

Parental relation and responsibility. . . .20

6. Inheritance. Ownership of property by women.

Primogeniture ....... 23

7. Slaves and slavery. Position and rights of slaves.

Price of slaves. Ameliorating conditions. Year of
release. Female slaves ...... 28

8. Clothing. Materials employed. Different articles of

attire for both sexes. Ornaments of women.
Sandals Jewellery. . . . . .40

9. Dwellings: caves, tents, houses. Materials employed.

Interior adornment . . . . . -57

10. Pleasure-gardens. ....... 65

11. Household furniture. Handmill, kneading trough,

and oven ........ 67

12. Kitchen utensils, pots, pitchers, bottles, and baskets . 75



1 3. Pastoral life. Dress and accoutrements of the shepherd.

Sheep. Goats 78

14. Canaanite civilization and its influence on Israel.




Agriculture. Ox, ass, mule, and horse, and their
employment ........ 82

15. Climate of Palestine. Early and latter rain. Agricul-

tural implements : plough, ox goad. Sowing :
barley and wheat-harvest. Reaping. Threshing.
Winnowing ....... 84

1 6. Vine-culture and vintage. Wine-press and wine-vat.

Feast of Booths. Raisins. Drinking habits. In-
temperance ........ 95

17. Olive and its culture. Olive-oil and its uses . .104

1 8. Fig and its culture. Varieties. Its uses. Date-palm.

Sycamore. Pomegranate. Cereals (millet spelt,
etc.). Beans. Lentils. Cucumbers. Flax . .no

19. Handicrafts and their development. Pottery. In-

fluence of Egypt and Babylonia. Potter's-wheel . 113

20. Weaving. Looms 119

21. Workmanship in wood, stone, and metal. Influence of

Phoenicia. Bronze and iron age. Canaanite arts
adopted by the Hebrews. Smelting and forging.
Manufacture of idols. Names of tools . . .120

22. Writing, Hieroglyphic, Cuneiform and Phoenician.

Writing materials and instruments. Scribes . .126

23. Seals. Documents . . . . . . .132

24. Trade. Phoenician vessels. ' Ships of Tarshish.'

Naval ports. Trade quarters . . . . . 134

25. Etiquette and social intercourse. Salutations. Buying

and selling. Gate of the city. Hospitality. Meals
and banquets . . . . . . . 1 37

26. Death and funeral customs. Graves . . . . 144



27. Family clan and tribe. Judge and elders. King.

State officials. Royal prerogative and its abuse.
Revenues. High Priest in post-exilisn times.
Sanhedrin 147

A. Money : E. Weights : C. Measures of capacity and

length: D. Calendar: E. Sacrifices . .. .154



i. Definition. By the 'Antiquities' of the Old
Testament two different classes of subjects are meant.
The term includes, first, the material objects of human
life, such as dwellings and clothing ; also the imple-
ments, agricultural, martial, political, and even reli-
gious, which find mention in the Old Testament, and
whereby human life under the ancient Hebrew civili-
zation, in its varied relations, was maintained, and
its usages carried on. And it includes, secondly^ the
usages themselves, the employments, the organized
institutions and laws, whether social or religious, be-
longing to the Hebrew society or state described in
the Old Testament.

As this subject in its varied branches is very exten-
sive, it will be impossible, within the limits of this
work, to deal with every topic that a larger treatise
might be expected to include. The most important
only can be here referred to, and these cannot be de-
scribed with the fulness which a complete dictionary
of antiquities might bestow. We shall endeavour,


however, to set forth the salient features with as much
vividness and truth as possible. With a view to accu-
racy of delineation it will be necessary for the reader
to be reminded that all earthly human institutions
grow. And the institutions of Israel, whether reli-
gious or political, constituted no exception to this
universal law. They were not the same in the days
of the Judges as they were in the time of Jeremiah.
So far -as the date of the Old Testament documents
will enable us, we shall endeavour to present our
subjects in their historical development. Owing to
lack of space the subject of religious institutions can
only be referred to incidentally.

Furthermore, it is important to recognise that the
Israelites did not stand entirely alone among the
peoples of the world. For it is quite certain that the
usages which prevailed among them and the language
which they spoke were nearly identical with those of
the other races, such as the Canaanites and the
Moabites, which dwelt near them. The Hebrews
exhibited many features of closest resemblance to
other races which in common with them are called
Semitic, viz., the Arabs of the South, the Aramaeans or
Syrians of the North, and the Assyrians and Babylon-
ians on the East. Modern archaeology is continually
demonstrating this with increasing clearness, and we
shall make use of some of its results in throwing all
the light we can upon the antiquities of Israel.

The ancient Hebrews, therefore, grew up among
kindred Semitic peoples. Not only their language
but the material objects and instruments and the
primitive usages of their civilization were derived
from a common stock of ancient Semitic inheritance,


much of which the Semites again shared with the
other ancient races of the world. What then made
the ancient Hebrews distinctive among the races of
the earth as God's own < peculiar ' people ? Not so
much the religious institutions which grew np among
them, and also among the kindred races, and were
derived from an immemorial antiquity, as those
higher ideas which in the course of Divine teaching
awoke to life and energy, and which their religions
institutions became moulded to enshrine and express.
The period of time covered in this brief treatise
will be about a thousand years, viz., from the Exodus,
circ. 1300 B.C., to 300 B.C. After the latter date
Jewish institutions became to a certain extent
moulded by Greek civilization and ideas slowly, it
is true, and amid some resistance from the conserva-
tive Pharisaic party, yet also surely and inevitably.
Occasional reference only will be made to the litera-
ture of the Apocrypha, the New Testament, and of
the latest Old Testament documents.



2,' The Hebrew Family. The position of
the father of the family in primitive Israel was evi-
dently that of an absolute ruler, though custom
tended to make his rule milder than it otherwise
would have been. The very name for husband in
Hebrew, baal, possessor or lord, is a clear indication
of what has been said. His wife was regarded as his
property ; and since polygamy was universally pre-
valent, and dissolution of the marriage relationship
might take place at the will of the husband, her
relation to the husband was rendered thereby one
of subordination and dependence.

To a man of full-grown age continuance in the
unmarried state was regarded in the East as very
unusual. 1 This was due to the universal desire of
every man and woman for posterity, especially male
posterity. Whether this was connected with the an-
cient worship of ancestors by the family 2 need not

1 ' To abstain from marrying when a man has attained a
sufficient age, and when there is no impediment, is esteemed by
the Egyptians improper and even disreputable.' LANE, Modern

2 The Teraphim were ancestral images. That they much
resembled the human form maybe inferred from Michal's device
(l Sam. xix. 13). Neubauer traces an etymological connection
between this word and the word Rephaim, or spirits of the
departed in Sheol or Hades. The episode described in Genesis



be discussed here. It is at all events certain that the
ancient Israelite considered that his name and person-
ality were in some way perpetuated by the continued
existence of his descendants. Thus sterility was re-
garded by a woman as the most terrible misfortune
(Gen. xvi. 2 ; i Sam. i. 2-8), while loss of children or
the destruction of a family were looked upon as signs
of Divine wrath (i Kings xvi. 34 ; Deut. xxviii. 56, 57).
Hence, on a daughter's departure from her parents'
dwelling for her husband's home, the highest parting
blessing was the wish that she might become mother
of thousands (Gen. xxiv. 60; comp. Ps. xlv. 16, 17).
No more distinguishing token of Divine favour could
be imagined by an ancient Hebrew than abundance of
posterity (Gen. xiii. 16, xv. 5, etc. ; Deut. xxxiii. 24).

Early marriages are the rule among Orientals in
the present day. Indeed, Lane assures us that few
women in Egypt remain unmarried after the age of
sixteen, and marriages at the age of twelve or thirteen
are quite common. Probably in ancient Israel it
was much the same. Under these circumstances
marriage comes largely under the control of the
parents on both sides. Of this we have a vivid
illustration in the detailed narrative contained in
Genesis xxiv. From this account we see that Abra-
ham gave special orders to his servant to seek out a
wife for Isaac. The father plays a prominent part
in all the preliminary arrangements, and the whole
matter is determined by his instructions. The part
played by Isaac is quite subordinate. Similarly, in
Judges xiv. 1-4, the parents of Samson endeavour

xxxi. 19, 32-35 would suggest that the Teraphim corresponded
to the Roman lares.


though unsuccessfully, to control their son's choice,
and they accompany him to the bride's abode in
Timnath, to settle the preliminaries.

Another important point still characteristic of
Oriental life, namely, the tendency to keep the
marriage in the same kindred or clan, emerges from
the narrative in Genesis xxiv. Marriage with another
race was strongly deprecated, as this meant the aban-
donment of national sacra^ and in comparatively early
times express Toroth, or instructions, whether oral or
written, were in existence on this subject (Exod. xxxiv.
15, I6; 1 comp. the more definite prescription, Deut.
vii. 3, 4). That such marriages, though deprecated,

1 It is to be noted that the religious tie fell more lightly on
the men than on the women. The sacra of the wife's tribe (Exod.
xxxiv. 1 6) draw away the husband and his children, not vice
vtrsfi. Comp. Gen. xxxi. 32, foil. ; I Kings xi. 4. The ten-
dency was precisely the opposite in Roman law, in which the
wife abandoned her previous gens and its sacra for those of her
husband. In fact, Exodus xxxiv. 16 suggests the question
whether the primitive custom of beena, as opposed to baal
marriage may not in very early times have prevailed even in
Canaan. By beena marriages are meant those ' unions in
which the husband goes to settle in his wife's village ' or is
received by the woman in her own tent. Kinship will then be
reckoned on the mother's side, the children being reared under
the protection of the mother's kin. Baal marriage, which
prevailed among the Hebrews, and in later times among the
Arabs, inverts this relation. The husband is the lord or owner
(baal}. The wife follows the husband, and the children are
regarded as belonging to his kin. This interesting subject is
worked out with great mastery of detail in Robertson Smith's
Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia. This writer thinks
that Genesis ii. 24 and the name of Eve point to primitive beena
traditions and female kinship even among the Hebrews (comp.
Arabic chayy, which means female kinship or tribe). Judges
xiv. 10-20 indicates an approximation to this custom. It is
quite evident that the prevalence of baal marriage tended to
convert the position of the woman from a relation of indepen-
dence into one of subservience. It is possible that a struggle
between these two traditions underlies the narrative Gen. xxxi.


did take place, is evident from the example of Samson
(Judg. xiv. 3 ; comp. also Gen. xxxiv., Ruth i. 4).
These, of course, were departures from ordinary usage.

Intertribal marriage, however, within the same race
was by no means uncommon. The special prohibi-
tion enforced against the tribe of Benjamin in Judges
xxi. 7 is described as exceptional, and arising from
an exceptional cause. The prevalent custom appears
to have been to take a wife from the agnati or kin-
dred on the father's side. Obviously the ancient
Hebrew felt preference rather than aversion to cousin
marriage. Nay, a half-sister, provided the relation-
ship was paternal, might without any obstacle be
chosen for a bride, as we know from the example of
Abraham and Sarah (comp. 2 Sam. xiii. 13 i Kings
xv. 2, which show that such unions were sanctioned
in the time of David and Solomon) ; and from the
inscription of the Phoenician king of Sidon, Esh-
munazar, lines 14, 15, we learn that he was son of
Tabnith and his half-sister Em'astoreth, priestess of
Ashtoreth. Such unions took place among the
Persians, Greeks, and Egyptians, but were forbidden
in Deuteronomy xxvii. 22, Leviticus xviii. 9, xx. 17.
Yet such marriages were probably not by any means
so common as those with cousins upon the father's
side. Cousin marriage is at the present day ' very
common among the Arabs of Egypt and of other
countries ' (Lane). Thus in the Old Testament we
read that Abraham despatched his servant Eleazer to
Mesopotamia to secure a cousin, Rebekah, for his son
Isaac, and similarly Jacob marries his cousins Leah
and Rachel. 1

1 ( Amongst the Bedouin a man has the right to demand his


3. Marriage Customs. We have already stated
that the Hebrews and Canaanites regarded the hus-
band as the baalj ' owner ' or lord of the wife. This
in all probability arose from a primitive condition of
warfare, in which the husband captured the wife.
That wives were not infrequently obtained in this
way in Old Testament times is obvious from the law
respecting the captive wife in Deuteronomy xxi. 10
foil. For capture the more peaceful method of
purchase became substituted when human life grew
more civilized. The price paid frequently in flocks
or camels, sometimes in money was called mohar
(Arabic mahr). From Exodus xxii. 16, illustrated by
the more expanded form of the statute in Deuteronomy
xxii. 29, we learn that the mohar or purchase money
for a bride was usually fifty shekels (between six and
seven pounds sterling). It was also customary for the
bridegroom at this preliminary stage, through his repre-
sentative, to make a gift to the bride of jewels and
raiment (Gen. xxiv. 22, 53). According to Lane, this
is done after the conclusion of the marriage contract
and previous to the wedding, among modern Arabs.
' He sends to her two or three or more times some
fruit, sweetmeats, etc., and perhaps makes her a pre-
sent of a shawl, or some other article of value.' In
conducting the preliminaries, the father, or, if he be
dead, the elder brother of the future bride, plays the
chief part, as being her natural protector. The bride
herself in these earlier stages is prevented by eti-
quette from taking any but a purely passive part in
the proceedings. In Isaiah iv. i the depopulation

cousin in marriage, and she cannot refuse him.' LA YARD,
Nineveh and Babylon, abridged ed., p. 135 footnote.


of the country, the destruction of males, and the
consequent position of the women, are described as
so terrible that maidens are driven to sue for their
own marriage. It has been already stated that the
bridegroom also took no prominent share in the
preliminary negotiations, which were settled by the
parents. In Syria, and perhaps some parts of Pales-
tine, the custom prevailed in ancient times of giving
the elder sister first in marriage (Genesis xxix. 26).
According to Lane, this tradition is still preserved
among the Arabs.

The wedding ceremonies began with a feast at the
dwelling of the bride. This we infer to have been
the custom in the earlier period described in Genesis
xxiv. and Judges xiv. 1 In the case of Samson's
wedding festivities at Timnath, the residence of his
bride, we are told that it was Samson who made the
feast, and that this was the custom of those early
times (' for so used the young men to do '). Samson
was joined by thirty companions of his wife's kindred,
and the festivities lasted an entire week, and were en-
livened by riddles. In the ancient Semitic, as well
as Greek and Roman custom, the chief and most
significant part of all the ceremonies was the escort-
ing of the bride in festive procession to her future

1 In later times the feast was held in the house of the bride-
groom, as described in Lane's Modern Egyptians, and this
form of marriage custom evidently underlies our Lord's parable
(Matt. xxv. 1-13). The virgins were waiting till the bride-
groom should appear to escort the bridal party to the feast in
his own house. Meyer, it is true, interprets the facts other-
wise, but the position of the bridegroom in John ii. 9, 10, to
whom the governor of the feast appeals, is decisive in favour of
the view here advocated, and it is fully sustained by Tobit vii.
13, xi. 17-19. See also Dr. Edersheim's Life and Times of the
Messiah^ vol. i. pp. 354, 355.


husband's home with songs and rejoicings that be-
came proverbial of a nation's ordinary prosperity
(Jer. vii. 34, xvi. 9, xxv. 10). The splendour of the
dresses and other accompaniments would, of course,
vary with the wealth of the families in which the
union took place. From Isaiah Ixi. 10 we learn that
the bridegroom wore an elegant turban, while the
bride was decked with jewels. The latter also en-
veloped her body in a light shawl or veil (ts'atpJi).
The same custom prevails at the present day, as we
learn from Lane's Modern Egyptians. Nor must we
forget the girdle of which Jeremiah (ii. 20) makes
special mention. The bride was accompanied by
maidens, and in the case of a royal marriage the
splendour of her robes and the pomp of the pro-
cession may be best described in the language of the
royal epithalamium, Psalm xlv. 14-16 (Heb. 13 foil).

'And, O Tyrian maid, 1 with a present there do homage to


The rich among the people !

All splendour is the king's daughter within doors,
Of gold broidery her garment ;

In robes of gay colours she is conducted to the king,
Maidens behind her, her companions, are brought unto thee ;
They are conducted with gladness and exultation,
They enter into the palace of the king.'

1 The text is by no means certain. We have simply followed
the Massoretic, The occurrence of a vocative here is some-
what questionable. Dr. Edersheim's vivid description of the
escorting of the bride to her husband's home may here be
quoted : ' First came the merry sounds of music, then they
who distributed among the people wine and oil, and nuts among
the children ; next the bride, covered with the bridal veil, her
long hair flowing, surrounded by her companions, and led by
the friends of the bridegroom and children of the bride-
chamber. Some carried torches or lamps on poles ; those
nearest had myrtle branches and chaplets of flowers.'


Lastly, she was escorted to the bridal chamber, or,
properly speaking, a pavilion, which was curtained
off, the Hebrew name for which was Chuppah^ where
stood the 'eres, or nuptial couch.

4. The position of the wife in a Hebrew house-
hold suffered from the prevalence of polygamy ; and
since, as we have shown above, marriage was based
on the idea of wife purchase by the husband, who
was her lord and owner, it follows that a husband
could take to himself as many wives as he pleased,
the number being limited solely by his means of sup-
port, or his personal inclination. As a matter of
fact, the wealthier the individual the larger as a rule
became the number. Moreover, there existed certain
causes which tended to bring about polygamy. In the
first place, as Stade points out, the wife was married
so young that she was unequal to the duties which
fell upon her as mistress of the household, and
needed the assistance of others. In the second place,
it happened sometimes that, owing to the wife's
childlessness, esteemed by Orientals a calamity
almost a curse another consort would frequently be
sought in order that posterity so much longed for
might be obtained. Childlessness, indeed, came as a
sad blight and dishonour upon a woman in her lord's
household, and she esteemed it as such. Under
these circumstances she would often induce her hus-
band to accept a concubine of her own choice, and
inferior to her in social position in fact, her female
slave, whose offspring she would regard as her own
(Gen. xvi. 2, xxx. 3, 9). Childbearing, therefore,

1 See Cheyne, Book of Psalms, on Ps. xix. 5, and Robertson
Smith, Kinship and Marriage^. 168.



conferred dignity and importance on the wife. It is
easy to see that out of these conditions of polygamic
life heart-burnings and jealousies were sure to arise.

A man had the power at will to cancel the mar-
riage bond. Not so, however, the wife. But the
woman under these circumstances possessed certain
rights. The primitive code of legislation usually called
the 'Book of the Covenant' (Exod. xx. 22-xxiii.)
evidently shows that this was the case, even when
she was in the position of a bondwoman sold by
the parents into concubinage. If she ceased to
please her master, he had no right to sell her like a
chattel to foreigners. He might indeed under such
circumstances espouse her to his son, in which case
she was to be treated like one of his own daughters.
Unless she were redeemed by her own kindred in
which condition she was free to marry another he
was obliged to continue to her food and raiment
(Exod. xxi. 7-11). According to Burckhardt, among
the higher classes in Arabia it is regarded as a shame-
ful thing to sell a concubine. She remains all her
life with her master. In very early times, however,
it sometimes happened that the woman was simply
dismissed from the master's home, as we see in the
hard case of Hagar (Gen. xxi. 10 foil.). The master
would then have no further rights, and gave up all
claim to compensation if she married another.

As Hebrew society developed and became more
civilized, it became more humanized, and numerous
traits in the Deuteronomic legislation, which in its
present form may be as late as the seventh century
B.C., are clear indications of this social progress.
Thus, according to Deuteronomy xv. 17, the female


slave might, if she chose, claim the same right of
freedom from her master at the end of seven years
as a male slave.

We may regard in this light the writ of divorce
prescribed in Deuteronomy xxiv. 1-4, and which the
husband was bound to give into the hand of the wife
whom he for special reasons dismissed from marriage
relationship. This regulation, as Ewald shows (Alter-
thiimer, p. 272), existed for the benefit of the wife,
who was now definitely released from all claims on
the part of a former husband and was free to marry
another. At the same time it is clear that the
Deuteronomic legislation aimed at greater strictness
in the married relation, so as to correct those lax
practices at which the higher moral consciousness
of Israel revolted (Amos ii. 7 ; Ezek. xxii. 10). In
earlier times, as among the Arabs, the father's wives
(with the exception of the mother) came into the
son's possession with the rest of the property. This
we observe in the case of Absalom 1 (see 2 Sam. xvi.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

Online LibraryOwen C. (Owen Charles) WhitehouseA primer of Hebrew antiquities → online text (page 1 of 11)