Thomas Harmer.

Observations on various passages of Scripture, placing them in a new light and ascertaining the meaning of several not determinable by the methods commonly made use of by the learned (Volume 2) online

. (page 14 of 33)
Online LibraryThomas HarmerObservations on various passages of Scripture, placing them in a new light and ascertaining the meaning of several not determinable by the methods commonly made use of by the learned (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 33)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Luke ii. 7. Res ipsa loquitur, they were obliged to lodge in the stable, be-
cause the inn was full before they arrived. Edit.
t Gen. xxxvii. 25, 28, 3Q^


I mention this, merely, as it is a circumstance of Easf-
crn travelling that may give some amusement : for the
true solution seems to me to be, that they were Ishmael-
ites who dwelt in the land of iVlidian who composed the
caravan, and to whom Joseph was sold. It appears from
Judges viii, 2*2, 24, that Ishmaelites and Midianites were
names sometimes applied to the same people : and as the
descendants of IVlidian were not Ishmuelites, for Midian
was a son of Abraham by Keturah, as Jshmael was by
Hagar; the Ishmaelites, or some of the Ishmaelites, must
have been Midianites by dwelling in the land of Midian.
And though people of different nations, without doubt,
travelled in ancient times in the same caravan, as they do
now, yet the terms are so indiscriminately made use of in
the history, Midianites and Ishmaelites, that we cannot
so naturally explain Moses, by saying Joseph was sold
to Midianitish merchants travelling in a caravan of Ish-
maelites, as in the manner 1 have been pointing out.



The editor of the Ruins of Palmyra tells us,^ that the
caravan they formed, to go to that place, consisted of
about two hundred persons, and about the same number
of beasts of carriage, which were an odd mixture of horses,
camels, mules,f and asses; but there is no account of any
vehicle drawn on wheels in that expedition; nor do we

* Page 34.

•j" Besides mules, which are not uncommon in England, but appear much
more frequently in the East, particularly in Arabia, Sir J. Chardin says, in
his MS In this country there is also another animal of a mixed nature,
begotten by an ass upon a cow, which he had seen. Shaw mentions the
same, as met with in Barbary, where it is called kumrah, p 166. Anah,
Gen. xxxvi 21, seems to have been the first that thought of the propagation
of such a creature as a mule j to whom the kumrah is to be ascribed does
not appear.


find an account of such thing;? in other Eastern jour-

There are, however, some vehicles among them used
for the sick,* or for persons of high distinction. So Pitls
observes, in his account of his return from Mecca, that at
the head of each division some great gentleman or officer
was carried in a thing like a horse litter, borne by two
camels, one before and another behind, which was cover-
ed all over with searclotb, and over that again with
green broadcloth, and set forth very handsomely. If he
had a wife attending him, she was carried in another.
This is apparently a mark of distinction.

There is another Eastern vehicle used in their jour-
nies, which Thevcnot calls a coune. He tells us,f the
counes are hampers, like cradles, carried upon camels'
backs, one on each side, having a back, head, and sides,
like the great chairs sick people sit in. A man rides in
each of these counes, and over them they lay a covering,
which keeps them both from the rain and sun, leaving as
it were a window before and behind upon the camel's
back. The riding in these is also, according to Mai!let,J a
mark of distinction : for, speaking of the pilgrimage to
Mecca, he says, ladies of any figure have litters; others
are carried sitting in chairs, made like covered cages,
hanging on both sides of a camel; and as for ordinary
women, they are mounted on camels wit Lout such con.
veniencies, after the manner of the Arab womeUjH and

* Maiilet, Lett, dern, pyge 230. f P^it i. page 1~7, 178.

J Lett. dern. page 220.

y Rachel seems to have been brought away by Jacob out of Mesonota-
mia hi tlie same manner, Gen. xxxi. .34, consLMjuently she rode upon au
hiran, after the Arab mode, which is a piece of serge, la Koque tells us,
page 127, of liis Voyage into Palestine, about six ells long, laid upon the
saddle, which is of wood in tiiese countries, in order to make the sitting
more easy ; and which hiran, he informs us, is made use of as a mattress,
when they stop for a night in a place, and on which they Iodide ; as their wal-
lets serve for cushions, or a bolster. It was the hiran, I presume, part of
the camel's furniture, under whicli she hid her father's Terapliim, and on
which she sat, according to their customs, in her tent, and therefore un-
suspected. Sir J. Chardin's MS. mentions this circumstance, and it is, I
think, a very natural illustration of the passage.
VOL. II. 21


cover themselves from sight, and the heat of the sun, us
well as they can, with their veils.

These are the vehicles which are in present use in the
Levanf. Coaches, on the other hand, Dr. Russell as-
sures us, are not in use at Aleppo; nor do we meet with
any account of their coffimonly using theai in any other
part of the East : but one would imagine, that if ever
such conveniencies as coaches had been in use, they
would not have been laid aside in countries where ease
and elegance are so much consulted.

As the caravans of the returning Israelites are describ-
ed by the Prophet,* as composed, like Mr. Dawkins's to
Palmyra, of hoises and mules, and swift beasts; so are
we to understand, f imagine, the other terms of the litters
and connes, rather than of coaches, which the margin men-
tions ; or of covered waggons, which some Dutch com-
Dientators,f suppose one of the words may signify, un-
luckily transferring the customs of their own country to
the East ; or of chariots, in our common sense of the

For though our translators have given us the word char-
iot in many passages of Scripture, those wheel vehicles^
which those writers speak of, and which our version ren-
ders chariots, seem to have been mere warlike machines ^
nor do we ever read of ladies riding in them. On the
other hand, a word derived from the same original is made
use of for a seat any bow moved, such as the mercyseat,
1 Chron. xxxviii. 18, where our translators have used the
"jvord chariot, but which was no more of a<:hariot, in the
common sense of the word, than a litter is ; it is made use
of also, for that sort of seat, mentioned Lev. xv. 9, which
they have rendered saddle, but which seems to mean a
litter, or a coune.

In these vehicles many of the Israelites were to be con-
ducted, according to the Prophet, not on the account of
sickness, but to mark out the eminence of those Jews,

"* Is. Ixvi. iJC. I Vitringa.


and fo express the great respect their conductors should
have for thera.



The Eastern swords, whose blades are very broad, are
worn by the inhabitants of those countries under their
thigh, when they travel on horseback."^

The MS. C. takes notice of these particulars, in two
notes on Judges iii. In one of them he mentions the last
of these circumstances after this manner: the Eastern
people have their swords hanging down at length, and
the Turks wear their swords on horseback under their
thigh. Psalm xlv. 3, and Cant. iii. 8, show they wore
Ihem after the same manner anciently. f



Where travellers are not so numerous as in caravans,
(heir appearance differs a good deal from that of those
that journey among us. To see a person mounted, and
attended by a servant on foot, would seem odd to us : and
it would be much more so to see that servant driving the
beast before him, or goading it along : yet these are East-
ern modes.

So Dr. Pococke, in his account of Egypt, tells us that
the man, the husband, 1 suppose, he means, always leads

* The sword, says Dr. Russell, MS. note, is fixed on the sadille by a girth.

f The passage alluded to does not clearly prove this : the long swords or
cimeters hang down upon the back part of the thigh almost to the ground*
but are not girt on the thigh. The passage in Judges refers to a concefilcd
sword or weapon, not wore in the usual fashion. Edit.


the lady's ass Ihere; and if she has a servant, he goes oh
one side: but (he ass driver follows the man, goads on the
beast, and when he is to turn, directs his head with a

The Shunamite, when she went to the Prophet, did not
desire so much attendance, only requested her husband
to send her an ass, and its driver, to whom she said, Drive,
and go forrvard, slack not thy riding for me, except I
bid thee, 2 Kings iv. 24. It appears from the Eastern
manner of the women's riding on asses, that the word is
rightly translated drive, rather than lead; and this ac-
count of Dr. Pococke will also explain why she did not
desire two asses, one for herself, and the other for the ser-
vant that attended her.

Solomon might refer to the same, when he says, I have
seen servants npon horses, and princes walking as ser-
vants npon the earth, Eccl. x. 7. My reader however
will meet with a more exact illustration of this passage in
a succeeding chapter.



They that travel on foot are obliged to fasten their
o-arments, at a greater height from their feet than they
are wont to do at other times.

This is what some have understood to be meant by the
girding their loins: not simply their having girdles about
them, but the wearing their garments at a greater height
than usual.

There are two ways of doing this. Sir J. Chardin re-
marks in his MS. after bavins informed us that the dress
of the Eastern people is a long vest, reaching down the
calf of the leg, more or less fitted to the body, and fasten-
ed upon the loins by a girdle, which goes three or four

» Vol. i.p. 191.


limes round them. " This dress is fastened higher up
two ways: the one, which is not much used, is to draw
up the \est above the girdle, just as the monks do when
they travel on foot ; the other, which is the common way,
is to tuck up the foreparts of the vest into the girdle, and
so fasten them. All persons in the East that journey on
foot always gather up their vest, by which ihey walk more
coramodiously, having the leg and knee unburdened and
unembarrassed by the vest, which they are not when that
hangs over them.'* And after this manner he supposes
the Israelites were prepared for their going out of Egypt,
when they eat the first passover, Exod. xii. 11.

He takes notice, in the same passage, of the singularity
of their having shoes on their feet at that repast. They
in comn)on, he observes, put ofFtheir shoes when they eat,
for which he assigns two reasons : the one, that, as they
do not use tables and chairs in the East, as in Europe, but
cover their floors with carpets, they might not soil those
beautiful pieces of furniture; the other, because it would
be troublesome to keep their shoes upon their feet, they
sitting crosslesged on the floor, and having no hinder
quarters to their shoes, which are made like slippers.

He takes no notice in this note, of their having to eat
this passover with a staff in their hand ; but he elsewhere
observes, that the Eastern people very universally make
use of a staff when they journey on foot ; and this passage
plainly supposes it.



There are roads in these countries, but it is very easy
to turn out of them, and go to a place by winding about
over the lands, when that is thought safer.

Dr. Shaw takes notice of this circumstance in Barbary,^
where, he says, they found no hedges, or mounds, or en-

* Pref. page 14, 15.


closures, io retard or molest (hetn. To this Deborah
doubtless refers, though the Doctor docs not apply this
circumstance to that passage, when she says, In the days
of ^hamgar, the son of Anatlif in the days of Jael, the
highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked
through byways, or crooked ways, according to the mar-
gin. Judges V. 6.

The account Bishop Pococke gives^ of the manner in
which that Arab, under whuse care he had put hioiself,
conducted him to Jerusalem, ijlustiates this with great
liveliness, which his lordship tells us wa-j by ni<iht, and
not by the highroad, but through the fields; "^and I ob-
served," says he, " that he avoided as much as he could
going near any village or encampment, and sometimes
stood still, as I thought, to hearken." And just in that
manner people were obliged to travel in Judea, in the days
of Shamgar and Jael.

We are not howe\er to imagine there are no enclosures
at all; they have mounds of earth walls, or living fences,
about their gardens. So RauwolfF tells us, about Tn|:oli
there are abundance of vineyards, and gardens, enclosed
for the most part with hedges, between which gardens run
several roads, and pleasant shady walks: these hedees,
he says, chiefly consist of the rhamniis, paiiuris, oxya-
cantha, phillyrea, lycium, balaustium, rubus, and dwarf
palmtrees.f The gardens about Jerusalem he describes
as surrounded by mud walls, not above four feet high,
easily climbed over, and washed down by rain in a very
little time. J So, agreeably to the first, we read of persons
being sharper than a thorn hedge, Mich. vii. 4 ; and
answerable to the second, of breaking a hedge^ or wall of
earth rather, it being a different word from the other, and
being bitten by a serpent, Eccl. x. 8.

Rauwolff'^s enumeration of the shrubs that are used in
the East for fencing, shows that not only are vegetables
armed with spines employed there for that use, but others

* Vol. ii. t Page 21, 22. + Page 236.


also. This is confirmed by Hasselquisf, who tells us,^
(bat he saw the plantain tree, vine, the peach, and the
niLf'htrry tree, all four made use of in Egypt to hedge
abovil a garden, in which sugarcanes and different sorts of
ciicuinbers were planted : now these are all unarmed
plants. This condidftration throws a great energy into the
words of Solomon, Prov. xv. 19, The way of a slothful
man is a hedge of f horns, it appears as difficult to him,
not only as breaking through a hedge, but even through a
thorn fence; and into that threatening of God to Israel,
Behold, I 7vill hedge up thy way with thorns, Hos. ii. 6.
As however their plantations of various esculent vege-
tables are not, unfrequently, now unenclosed in those coun-
tries, so Sir John Chardin seems to suppose, in his MS.
it was so there anciently, and that on this account it was
those lodges and booths were made, which Jsaiah refers
to in the eighth verse of his first chapter. The daugh-
ter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge
in a garden of encumbers. He describes these lodges as
places defended from the sun by sods, straw, and leaves,
made for the watching the fruits of those places, such as
cucumbers, melons, grapes, &.c. when they begin to ripen ;
under which they also sell the produce of such gardens.
After which he remarks, that the Armenian version trans-
lates those words of the 80(h Psalm, They have made Je-
rusalem desolate, by this expression, they have made it
like the lodges of those that watch fruit^f

» Page 111.

f Locus cespitibus, stramentis, et froudibus, a radiis soils munitiis, pro
custodiendis friictibus. Comme concombres, melons, raisins, et aulres ne
3ont en jardins, ni en lieux enferraes, Sec. desque's commencent a meurir,
on y batit des telles logettes, poui' las garder, et aussi pour vendre les
fruits etles legumes dessous. Figure tres naive. In Psalm \\\x. feceriou
turue Jerusalem desolatam, Armeniaca Biblia habent, tugiiria custodieU"
Hum fimcius.

J)r Russell observes, that these lodges are found even ^vhere the garilen
\% surrounded v^'iih. a wall. Edit,


As it was SO easy to get over some of their fences, such
vvatchhouses might be very requisite in such gardens as
had hedges, but they must have been more necessary still
in those that were perfectly open. Several travellers have
taken notice of such improved spots of ground, which
they have met with from time to time ; and cucumbers
have been expressly mentioned, as one thing they have
cultivated, in such places, =J^ as the Prophet here particular-
izes that species of vegetables, a lodge in agarden of cu-

As grapes also, according to Sir John Chardin, are
found among other things in such cultivated spots, and
must be doubly delightful to those that travel in a deso-
late kind of country, there is reason to believe there is a
reference to such plantations in Hos. ix. 10, I found Is-
rael like grapes in the wilderness ; not I found Israel
when they were in the wilderness, pleasant to me as grapes ;
but as grapes found in some cultivated place in a wilder-
derness are pleasant to a traveller through such deserts so
has Israel been to me.

Sir John Chardiu mentions these open plantations of
esculent vegetables in another note, on Jer. iv. 17, which
place. is hi2.hly illustrated by it. The Prophet says, As
keepers of a field are they against her round about ^ &.c.
on which he remarks, that "as in tlie East, pulse, roots,
&,c. grow in open and unenclosed fields, when they begin
to be fit (o gather, they place guards, if near a great road
more, if distant fewer, who place themselves round about
these grounds, as is practised in Arabia."

He also, in a note on Mic. vii. 1, takes notice of the
fondness of the Persians, and Turks, for their fruits as soon
as they approach to ripeness ; the Persians especially,
who eat almonds, plums, melons, before they are ripe,
the great dryness and the temperature of the air prevent-
ing flatulencies.

* Thevenot, part 2. p. 41. Phil, Trans. Abr. vol. iii. p. 489.




One would have i/nagined, that in so warm a climate
as Judea, and the neighbouring countries, these living
fences would have been thought sufficient for their vine-
yards; but it seems stone walls are frequently used.

Thus Egmont and Heyman, describing the country
about Saphet, a celebrated city of Galilee, tell us, " the
country round it is finely improved, the declivity being
covered with vines supported by low walls. ^

The like management, it seems, obtained anciently;
Prov. xxiv. 31, speaking of a stone wall about a vineyard :
and walls being mentioned by Job, in connexion, 1 think,
with treading wine presses, ch. xxiv. 11. Our transla-
tors indeed understood the passage otherwise, " Which
make oil within their walls, and tread their wine presses,
and suffer thirst;'' but it is extremely difficult to tell
what greater hardship attended making oil within walls,
than in the open air; nor does any contrast appear be-
tween their labour as to this and what followed, as there
does between treading wine presses, and suffering thirst,
in the following part of the verse, and in that threatening
of the Prophet Micah, Thou shall sow^ hut thou shall not
reap ; thou shall tread the olives, but thou shall not
anoint thee with oil ; and sweet wine, but shall not drink
wine.-\ Those words then of Job are mistranslated, and
the version of Schultens to be adopted, inter yedamenta
eontm meridiantur, they work at midday among their
rows of vines; or rather, more conformably to our trans-
lation, and to the preceding account of Egmont and ITey-

■ * Vol. ii. p. 39, 40. At Aleppo, Dr. R. says, MS. note, most of the vine-
yards are fcQced with stone Avails. In several plaoes, a hedge Avould not
jrow well from lack of moisture. Edit.

tCh. vi. iv,
VOL. If. . 2*2


man, " (hey work at midday among their walls, they tread
wine presses, and suffer thirst."

Buxtorff^ supposes this sense of the word r)'}}\if shiirotk,
is properly Chaldaic, because the Chaldee Paraphrast
every where uses the term '^)w s/wr for the Hebrew word
riDin chomah, a wall ; but if this should be admitted, it af-
fords no argument against the book of Job being written
by Moses, according to the common supposition, since he
uses the like term in the same Chaldaic sense in the Pen-
tateuch, Gen. xlix. 22.

Possibly the guarding against the depredations of jack-
als, was one reason inducing them t6 build walls about
their vineyards, since we are assured by Hasselquist,f
" that these animals are very numerous in Palestine, es-
pecially during the vintage, often destroying whole vine-
yards, and fields of cucumbers. If it was, there was
something extremely sarcastic in those words of Tobiah
the Ammonite, Even that which they build, if a fox
[a jackal] go up, he shall even break down their stone
walls, Nehem. iv. 3. If a jackal should set himself to
force a way through, he should break down their stone
wall, designed to defend their capital city, but not so
strong as a common vineyard wall : well might Nehemiah
say, when he was told it, Hear, O our God, for we are
despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head,
ver. 4,

The insupportable heat of midday in these countries
has been taken notice of in a preceding chapter ; to which
might be added, in this place, the great augmentation of
the heat to those that are near walls, from the reflected
rays of the sun, which is so great, that Dr. Russell tells
us, that had not Providence wisely ordered it, that the
westerly winds are the most frequent in summer at Alep-
po, the country would scarcely have been habitable, con-
sidering the intense heat of the sun's rays, and reflection
from a bare rocky track of ground, and from the white
!?tone walls of the houses.

* Epit. Ra<]. 11 fib. I Page isr.


And as Hasselquist observes,^' that the wWd beasts,
particular!}' the jackals, had their passages and habitations
in the live fences near Joppa, it is quite natural to sup-
pose this was one reason, at least, of raising stone walls
about their vinejards.



That numbers of the Israelites had no wood growing
on their own lands, for their burning, must be imagined
from the openness of their country.

It is certain, the Eastern villages now have oftentimes lit-
tle or none on their premises : so Russell says,f that incon-
siderable as the stream that runs at Aleppo, and the gar-
dens about it, may appear, they, howe\er, contain almost
the only trees that are to be met with for twenty or thirty
miles round, *' for the villages are destitute of trees," J and
most of them only supplied with what rainwater they can
save in cisterns. D'Arvieux|| gives us to understand,
that several of the present villages of the Holy Land are
in the same situation; for, observing that the Arabs burn
cowdung in their enc.ampments,§ he adds, that all the vil-
lagers, who live in places where there is a scarcity of
wood, take great care to provide themselves with suffi-
cient quantities of (his kind of fuel. This is a circumstance
I have elsewhere taken notice of.

The Holy Land appears, by the last observation, to
have been as little wooded anciently as at present; nev-
ertheless, the Israelites seem to have burnt wood very
commonly, and without buying it too, from what the
Prophet says. Lam. v. 4, We have drunken our water for
mo7iey, our wood is sold to us. Had they been wont to

* Page 15. t Vol. i. p. 3, &c. and 543. + Page 9-

II Voy dans la Pal. par la Roque, p. 193.
§ They use sheepdung also. Edit.


buj (heir fuel, they would not Lave complained of it as
such a hardship.

The true account of it seems to be this : The woods of
the land of Israel being from very ancient times common,
the people of the villages, which, like those about Aleppo,
had no trees growing in them, supplied themselves with
fuel out of these wooded places, of which there were ma-
ny anciently, and several that still remain. This liberty
of taking wood in common^ the Jews suppose to have
been a constitution of Joshua, of which they give us ten ;
the first, giving liberty to an Israelite to feed his flock in
the woods of any tribe : the second, that it should be free
1o take wood in the fields any where. "^ But though this
was the ancient custom in Judea, it was not so in the
country into which they were carried captives; or if this
text of Jeremiah respects those that continued in their
own country for a while under Gedaliah, as the ninth

Online LibraryThomas HarmerObservations on various passages of Scripture, placing them in a new light and ascertaining the meaning of several not determinable by the methods commonly made use of by the learned (Volume 2) → online text (page 14 of 33)