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 4) online

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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 4) → online text (page 22 of 35)
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ably resemble each other in their form as well as habits
of life, being both conversant in watery places, long neck-
ed and legged, short bodies and tails, feet not webbed,
building their nests on houses and old ruinated places, I
should think it by no means improbable, that (he Hebrew
word m^Dn chasidah signifies neither the crane nor the
stork exclusively, but both species, and their several va-
rieties, and in one word, the whole class of birds that
come under the above mentioned description. f

The time of the return of these birds to the south, ac-
cording to these accounts, marked out the approach of
winter, and the time to give over sailing, J as their flying
northward proclaimed the approach of spring. Agreea-
bly to this, that Prophet mentions the timeSf in the plural,
appointed for the chasidah, which seems to express both
the time of their coming from the south, and the time of
returning thither again ; whereas the time of the coming
of the other birds only is mentioned, which alone was

There is no debate about the meaning of the second
word, it is allowed on all hands the turtle is meant ; and
as I have elsewhere shown, |1 that the voice of the turtle
and the singing of the nightingale are coincident things,
Jeremiah seems to design to mark out the coming of a

• Page 237.

f But whether this be admitted or not, it is certain that cranes are seen
in Judea as well as storks, for Hasselquist found them, in the beginning o^
April, in great numbers there, p. 120.

i St. Paul describes the time that sailing became dangerous, by the fast
being" pastf Acts xxvii. 9, which being the tenth of the seventh month^^
called Tizri, fell out about the beginning of October, not far distant froa^
the time that the crane and the stork retire into Egypt.

tl The outlines of a New Comra. on Sol. Song, p. 149,


bird later in the spring than the chasidah ; for, according
to the Persian almanack of Sir John Chardin, the night-
ingale begins to be heard some days later than the appear-
ance of the stork, and marks out the beginning of spring,
as the stork does the departing of winter.

How well might it have been, had Sir John Chardin
given us that whole column, relating to the memorable
events which happened in each month through the year,
which he tells us formed, originally at least, a kind of rus-
tic calendar, which guided them with sufficient exactness
in the common concerns of life, and their ordinary occu-
pations.* If the modern Persian almanack makers have
not continued to set down all the ancient observations re-
lating to things of this sort ; the knowledge of the whole
of what they have retained would, probably, have been
of use, not only to those who study Arabian antiquities,
which Sir John speaks of, but to those also that might be
desirous to examine with care the sacred writings.

The Septuagint may I think be understood to have in-
troduced only three kinds of birds in their translations of
this passage of Jeremiah viii. f, whereas our's reckons
four.f For in the other place,J where the two last He-
brew words appear, there being but two places where
they occur, they translate thera as signifying one bird.

Whatever this was owing to, it could not be because
they knew but of three classes of migratory birds. |1 There
are not only several more in fact, but they must have
taken notice of some of them. Mr. Stillingfleet has justly
observed, that the coming of the cuckoo is so remarkat

* Page U7.

f Ken r) ct<n^<}i> — r^vcav Koit ^zhi^av o^y^ovj G'r^Q\j^iXi<pv\»^(X,v-

KXi^Ovg UiToi'm avrrn. The four birds mentioned in the Hebrew test

are '^'^^)^'^ D'DI niHI m^DH Chaseedah, re' Thor, ve' Sis, ve' Jlgoor,
which our translators render the stork, the turtle, the crane, and the swal-
low. The Septuagint reckon four kinds as well as the HebrcAv. Edit

% Is. xxxviii. U. I! The chasidah, the turtle, and the nightingale.


ble, and so applicable to the matters of husbandry, that
Aristophanes says, "when the cnckoo sung, the Phoeni-
cians reaped wheat and barley."* The cuckoo Ihen,
according to this ancient Greek writer, is beard in Phoe-
nicia, adjoining to, or rather a part of the Holy Land ; is
much taken notice of there, as indeed its note is very par-
ticular ; and ifs coming was connected with a very im-
portant part of business, harvest.

The coming of the stork, from the south, announces
the speedy withdrawing of the winter; the cooing of the
turtle, together with the singing of the nightingale, affirms
that the spring is come ; and the voice of the cuckoo,
that it is BO far advanced that it is then time to begin har-
vest. Where the Prophet mentions the stork in the
heavens, he may be considered as contrasting them with
the other birds, which returned more secretly, flying low
near the earth. The taking notice of this circumstance is

In the Swedish calendar, given in the Collections of Mr.
Stillingfleet, there are but three days between the coming
of the stork and swallow, which both arrived in one day,
and the hearing of the cuckoo, and the third day after
the cuckoo and the nightingale is said to have sung.f In
the Norfolk calendar, formed by Stillingfleet on his own
observations in that county, the swallow returned the 6th
of April \7f}5f the nightingale sung the 9rh, the cuckoo
not heard till the 17th. According to this, as3 in the re-
mote northern countries, vegetables hurry on, when sum-
mer comes thither, with much greater rapidity than with
us, as appears by a Siberian or Lapland general calendar
in the same writer ;J so it should seem the coming of the
various tribes of migratory birds follows each other in
greater hurry than with us, and ours, perhaps in quicker
succession than in Judea, and it may be not exactly in
the same order. But careful observations are wanting
' here.

* Misc. Tracts, p. 290, note. f Page 2«6, 267. ^ Page 317.


I will only add further, that though classical readers,
tvho are acquainted with Ovid, and the supposed meta-
morphosis of Progne into a swallow, maj imagine the
noise that bird makes is very melancholy, and therefore
suppose the words of Hezekiah may very well be trans-
lated, " like a swallow so did I chatter;" yet I believe
the unprejudiced mind will be disposed to think, that the
note of the cuckoo much more naturally expresses the
softly complaining Ob ! of the afflicted, when doubled as
it often is Oh ! oh ! than the chattering of a swallow.
Not to dwell on an observation that may be made, that
the word J|V3V tsaph fsaph, translated chatter, appears
to signify the low, melancholy, interrupted voice of the
complaining sick, rather than a chattering noise, if we
consult the other jilaces in which it is used, which are
Isaiah viii. 19 ; x. 14 ; xxix. 4.^^ As for the chattering of
the crane, it seems quite inexplicable. Swallows, how-
ever, appear in the Holy Land; they were seen at Acre
in 17'r4, in October, and were then about disappearing.



A SACRED writer supposes that the turtle dove is a
migratory bird. Maillet does the same, as to many, not
all ; telling us, that when the cold sets in here in Europe,
many kinds of birds come to Egypt, some fixing them-
selves near the mouths of the Nile, some taking up their
abode near Cairo, and there are some that go as far as

• It is used also Ezek. xvii. 5, but there it is translated a tvillo-w tree in
our version. Parkhurst confouads this root HSV tsaphahy to overspread
or overfloiu ; but they certainly have no connection. It seems to be of the
same import with the Arabic '" "i" sajfa, which signifies to make
fiquaU arrange^ set in order. Edit.

VOL. III. 35


Upper Egypt; and among the migratory birds found in
Egypt, upon the approach of winter, he mentions qiiails
and turtle doves of passage, which are, he says, very

Two things appear in this account of Maillet : 1st.
That many turtle doves do not migrate ; and 2d, That
they are eaten in Egypt as food, and found to be very

The first point is confirmed, I think, by Dr. Chandler,
at the same time that he found the singing of the night-
ingale and the cooing of the turtle dove were coincident
things, according to Cant. ii. 12, of which I have else-
where given some account.f

"We set out,'* says the Doctor,J ** from Magnesia, on
the 23d at noon.|i .... On each side of us were orch-
ards of fig trees sown with corn ; and many nightingales
were singing in the bushes." Again, page 202, " Atten,§
our course was northward, on its bank," the river Har-
pasus, " in a valley. We were surrounded with a de-
lightful trilling of innumerable nightingales." On the
same day, they arrived at Guzel Hissar, at entering which
town, he tells us, they were surprised to see around them
innumerable tame turtle doves, silting on (he branches of
the trees, on the walls, and roofs of houses, cooing un-
ceasingly, page 205.

These, according to the Doctor, were tame turtle
doves. They were found in a town, not heard as ihey
travelled in the country ; and their number was very
large : sitting every where ; on trees, on walls, and on
the roofs.

* A peine le froi J commence k se faire sentir en Europe, qa' oa ne
manque ici ni de canards, ni de sarcelles, ni de becassines et de pluviers,
ni meme de cailles et de tourterelles passageres, qui sont fort bonnes.
Dcsc. de I'Egypte, Let. 9, p. 2L

t Chitlines Of a New Comment. &c. p. 149.

ir Chandler's Travels in Asia Minor, p. 212.

11 He means the 23d of April, as appears, p. 199'. f April 21,


There is a difficulty which may have presented itself
<o some mindii, and which this acconnt of the tame turtle
doves of Guzel Hissar may remove. They migrate on
the approach of winter. Now in that season, it appears
by a quolalion from a Jewish writer, mentioned in a pre-
ceding volume, pigeons are not wont to have young ones :
how then could that law of Moses be obeyed, which re-
lates to matters that happen at all times of the year,^ and
which enjoined them to bring for an offering to the Lord
two turtle doves, or two young pigeons? But now it may
be observed from hence, that if young pigeons could not
be procured, as being in the winter, tame turtle doves
might supply their place, there being doubtless gr^at
numbers of them then in Judea ; as there are now at Gu-
zel Hissar. A religious consideration must have engaged
the Jews to keep them ; which can have no influence on
the inhabitants of Asia Minor of our time.

As to the other point, their being eaten, that appears
evident from Maillet, who could not otherwise have pro-
nounced concerning their goodness 5 yet it seems from the
answers I received from some I consulted on this poinfj
who had been in the Holy Land, that they are not very
commonly used for food there at this time, since they did
not remember ever to have eaten of them in that country-

They may be kept, possibly, at this time in such nura*-
hers in the Lesser Asia, merely for pleasure; but it is
certain that St. Jerora, who lived long in the neighbour-
liood of Jerusalem, speaks of fat turtles as luxurious eat-
ing,! numbering them with pheasants, and another bird
which has been supposed to be the Asiatic partridge by

• Lev. xii. 8, ch. xiv. 22, kc,

f Procul sint a conviviis tuis phasides aves, crassi turtures, attagen lon-
icus, et omnes aves, quibus anipHssirua patrimonia avolant. Nee ideo te
cfirnibus vesci non putes, si Suum, Leporum, atq ; Cervorum, et quadru-
pedum animantium esculentias reprobes. Non enim h»c pedum numero,
sed suavitate g-ustus jniicuniuv. Ep. ad Salvinam de Viduitate servanda^
Hieron. Op. vol. iv. p. 667.

272 ^^^ im^^^ NATURAL, CIVIL, AND

some; but by others a different kind of bird, but what
they could not well determine,* attagen lonicus being
the Latin name.

It may not be amiss to add to the preceding account,
relating to the tameness of mnny turtle doves, what the
Baron de Tott says in the Prelim. Disc, to his Mem. p.
IT, and in p. 208, of the first part of them. In the first
place he remarks, that pigeons are more wild in Turkey
than with us, because they are more neglected. In the
other, that turtle doves, on the contrary, are extremely
familiar there. The government, he tells us, while their
subjects are treated with great rigour, is very compassion-
ate to these birds, allowing so much per cent, in favour
of them : *' A cloud of these birds constantly alight on
the vessels which cross the port of Constantinople, and
carry this commodity, uncovered, either to the maga-
zines or the mills. The boatmen never oppose their gree-
diness. This permission to feast on the grain brings
them in great numbers, and familiarizes them to such a
degree, that I have seen them standing on the shoulders
of the rowers, watching for a vacant place, where thej
may fill their crops in their turn."

*'* We cannot with certainty," says Francis, in a note on the second
Epode, •' determine what the rhombus, scarus, or attagen were." If there
are various birds not commonly known to us, even in our country, very
delicious eating, as those called by the Scotch caperkyly, those called black
game, and ptarmigans, see Appen. to Pennant's Tour, 1769, can it be any
wonder we have not a very determinate knowledge of what the ancient
Greeks and Romans meant, by some of the terms they made use of ? Nor-
den mentions a bird they shot in Egypt, coromane, " of the size of a
woodcock, of a delicious taste ; but still more esteemed on account of its
fine note. The Turks give for tkem eight or ten sequins, when they are
taken young and have been taught to sing. With regard to their beauty,
it consists only in their large eyes ; for their feathei's do not differ from
those of the wild duck." Vol. 2, p. 37. According to Pliny, lib. 9, cap.
48, the attagen when abroad sings, though silent when taken, which much
better agrees with the coromanes, than birds of the partridge kind. It is
true, Ionia and Egypt are two very different countries, but there, are
Dther birds that pass from the one to the other : whether this species doeSi
it is not said.


It could not be difficult to detain in Judea, through the
winter, as many as they chose to do, by taking care to
feed them.



Dr. Chandler supposes that the olive groves are the
principal places for the shooting of birds i"^ and in his
other volume, containing an account of his travels in
Greece, he observes, that when the olive blackens, vast
flights of doves, pigeons, thrushes, and other birds, repair
to the olive groves for food :f the connection then between
Noah's dove and an olive leaf, Gen. viii. 11, is not at all

The tops of olive trees might alone, possibly, be in yiew
of the place where the ark was then floating, though it is
a tree of only a middling height; but if the dove saw a
great number of other trees appear above the water, it
was natural for it to repair to olive trees, where it had
been wont to shelter itself, preferably to others, accord-
ing to this account. As to branches of olives being used
afterward as symbols of peace, that could be nothing to
Noah, as, most probably, the associating the idea of re-
conciliation and peace with an olive branch was the work
of aftertimes.

• Trav. in Asia Minor, p. 84.

f Page 127. So Hasselquist heard the nightingale among the willows by
the river Jordan, and among the olive trees of Judea, p. 212.

"274 ^^ 1'^^^'^ NATURAL, CIVIL, AND



EzEKiEL supposes^^ (he Great Sea, by which he means
the Mediterranean Sea, was very full offish : I would ob-
serve, that it was not necessary, as to the Jews, to derive
this apprehension from the fish brought by the men of
Tyre to Jerusalem ;f their own people might draw this
knowledge, from the fish they found near what were in-
disputably their own shores,

Doubdan, speaking of his going by sea from Sidon to
Joppa, or Jaffa, as he calls it, in his way to Jerusalem,
says, that on his entering into that port, they found it so
abounding in fish, ** that a great fish pursuing one some-
what less, both of them sprung at the same time about
three feet out of the water ; the first dropped into the
middle of the bark, and the other fell so near that they
had well nigh taken it with their hands : this happened
very luckily, as it afforded our sailors a treat. "J

It would have been well, had he told us of what kind
the two fishes were, for want of it I am not able even to
begin a list of the species offish which haunt, or which
visit the Jewish shores. This is a desideratum in the
natural history of that country. There is a vast variety
in that sea, but they have particular places, in which many
of the different sorts appear, and which are not to be
found in other parts of the Mediterranean.

Though the coast of that part of Syria which denomi-
nated Palestine, is not remarkable for the number of its
ports, yet besides Joppa, St. John d'Acre, Caipha under
Mount Carmel, and a few others that might be named,

• Ch. xlvii. 10. " Their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish
•f the Great Sea, exceeding many."

t NeheiB.xiii. IC. | Voy. de la Terre Sainte, p. 40,


there are some creeks, and small convenient places,
where little vessels, and such are those that are used for
fishing, maj shelter themselves, and land what they take,
though there are very few rivers on all that coast. ^ To
these places Deborah seems to refer, when she says,
Asher continued on the sea shore, and abode in his
breaches, or creeks, as if is translated in the margin.f

So we are told that Ali Bey, marching from Caipha, to
Joppa by land, set out on the 12th of August, and cross-
ing Mount Carmel, came on the 16th near Joppa, and
pitched his camp by a brook northeastward of the town,
at a little distance from it ; but the ships anchored in a
creek, about six miles to the northward of Joppa. J

So RauwolfFinforms us, that when his vessel got clear
of the frigates that came out from all sides near Caipha
to seize upon it, and got about Mount Carmel, two ships
pursued them, but were forced to leave them :|| this
shows there are several places where small ships may put
in and anchor, and where the children of Asher might
continue in their ships, pursuing their marine employ-
ments ; while others of the neighbouring tribes were haz-
arding their lives in fighting for their country by land.

What Doubdan says of the fish that jumped out of the
sea near Joppa, in pursuit of another large fish, by which
means one of them was taken, and feasted on by the sea-
men, and the other narrowly escaped, may put us in mind
of the adventure of Tobit, on the bank of the Tigris : a
fish leaping out of the water, and darting at bim, as an
object of prey.§ If one fish threw itself out of the sea in
pursuit of another, a voracious fish may possibly have
thrown itself out of the water, darting at a naked man

* The History of Ali Bey's Revolt says, that from Caesarea to Joppa are
15 or 16 miles, and that about a mile and a half before you come to Jop-
pa, you cross a small ri?ulet, \rhich is the only running >rater in all that
fertile country, p. 1 85.

t Judges V. 17. i Page 126, 127.

II Ray's Travels, p. 224, 225. § Ch* vi. 2.



that stood on the margin of the river. Fish certainly fre-
quently devour men that they find in the water, not
only when they find them dead, but when they hap-
pen on them alive. But as the book of Tobit lays the
scene of this very unusual event on the shore of the Ti-
gris, it may not be improper to subjoin a quotation from

It relates to his voyage down the Tigris, the river that
is mentioned in Tobit. " This evening, about nine o'clock,
one of the men in our keleck,f with a hook took a great
fish ; it was about five feet long, and though it was as big
as a man, yet he told me it was a young one, and that
commonly they are much bigger. The head of it was
above a foot long ; the eyes four inches above the
jaws, round, and as big as a brass farthing; the mouth of
it was round, and being opened, as wide as the mouth of a
cannon, so that my head could easily have gone into it;
about the mouth, on the outside, it had four white long
beards of flesh, as big as one's little finger : it was all over
covered with scales like to those of a carp ; it lived long
out of the water, died when they opened the belly to
skin it, and was a female : the flesh of it was white, tasted
much like a tunny, and was as soft and loose as flax."

There are then very large fish in the Tigris. But if
any of my readers, after all, should be disposed to con-
sider this adventure of Tobit as apochryphal, he will not,
I imagine, be guilty of a mortal sin in so doing.

Our translation, however, it is but justice to remark,
has improperly given the English reader to understand,
that Tobit and his companion, without the help of any
others to assist them, eat up this whole great fish, ver. 5 :
And when they had roasted the fishy they did eat it. The
Greek original only says. And having roasted the fish
they eat : eat what they thought fit of it.

• It is in part 2, book 1, ch. 13, p. 59.
t A particular sort of vessel used on that river.




People of power in the East are wont to be mostly
verj oppressive, and the expensi\eness of their harams,
or, in other words, of their wives, appears to be one of the
causes of their great oppressions ; which seems to be ex-
actly what the Prophet Amos had in view, in the begin-
ning of his fourth chapter, where he compares the ladies
of Israel to fatted kine.

As commentators of former times seem, to me, to have
most unhappily jumbhd and confounded things together,
in their explanation of this prophetic passage* at least
those that I have consulted, it may not be improper to
collect together some observations upon it.

It is not at all uncommon for the Prophets, to compare
the great men of their own nation to males of this kind of
animal, Ps. xxii. 12, Deut. xxxiii. 17, as well as those of
other nations, Ps. Ixviii. 30, Is. xxxiv. 7. Here Amos
uses a word that denotes the females of that species,
■which, in course, should signify the women of distinction
in Israel.

Their masters that were required to bring fattening
food and drink, points out, under the image of what was
done to kine that were fatting, those supplies, with re-
spect to food, which the luxurious ladies of that country
would, if was to be expected, require of their lords. Nor
is it to be imagined, that they would not equally demand
splendid clothing, and expensive ornaments.

That, in consequence, occasioned the oppressingthepoor
and crushing the needy. So le Bruyn describes the women
of the Levant, *♦ as havingsucha passion for dress, that they
never think themselves richly enough attired, without any
attention to their rank, or any consideration whether their

yoL. III. 36


circumstances will admit of it."* Chardin's account of tbe
Persian ladies is just the same. " The great luxury of the
Persians is in their seraglios, the expense of which is im-
mense, owing to the numberof women thej keep there, and
the profusion their love to them causes. Rich new habits
are continually procured for them, perfumes are consumed
there in abundance, and the women, being brought up and
supported in the most refined voluptuousness, use every
artifice to procure for themselves whatever pleases them,
without concerning themselves about what they cost."f
Such expensiveness occasions great oppression now, and,
it seems, did so among the Israelites in the days of Amos.

Out of these fatting stalls they were to be driven by
the hand of an enemy, for breaches are supposed to be
made in the buildings in which they were kept, through
which they were to be driven, every one out of her stall
through such a breach, prophetically marking out, by a
continuation of the same image, the making breaches in
the cities of their habitation, and forcing them out of those
places of their luxury.

The 2d verse need not be so understood as to vary the

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 4) → online text (page 22 of 35)