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 23 of 35)
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image, and from comparing them to fatted kine in one
verse, in the next to represent them as fishes taken away
by hooks. The word mJV tsinnoth, in the original, signi-
fies thorns, consequently any straight sharp pointed thing,
as well as one bent, or a hook. And when it is remem-
bered that animals of this kind, as well as asses, are driven
along by a sharp pointed stick, or some such kind of in-
Btrument, this 2d verse is decyphered, and brought to be
of an homogenious nature with the preceding and follow-
ing verse.

That this is the custom in those countries, we learn from
Maundrell. "Franks are obliged either to walk on foot,
or else to ride upon asses. . . . When you are mounted,
the master of the ass follows his beast to the place whither

• Tome 1, p. 450. This follows the account of the extreme avidity of
the mep, so as to stick at nothing to procure money.

t Tome 2, p. 55.

Military state of judea. 279

fbu are disposed to go; goading him up behind with a
sharp pointed stick, which makes him despatch his stage
with great expedition."^ Oxen are driven there, accord-
ing to him, after the same manner. " The country peo-
ple were now every where at plough in the fields, in order
to sow cotton. It was observable, that in ploughing, they
used goads of an extraordinary size. Upon measuring of
several, I found them about eight foot long, and at the
bigger end six inches in circumference. They were armed
at the lesser end with a sharp prickle for driving the oxen,
and at the other end with a small spade, or paddle of iron,
strong and massy, for cleansing the plough from the clay
that encumbers it in working."! If oxen then, and fe-
males of that species, are wont to be driven along by
goads, it cannot be wondered at that the Prophet should
represent the carrying away into captivity of the Israel-
itish ladies, considered under the image of kine, by the
driving them along by goads : He shall take you away
with sharp pointed instruments, for that seems to be the
precise meaning of the word ; not hooks, nor even tfaornsy
in an exclusive sense, but in general^ things that are sharp
pointed. J

I can assign no reason why thorns, or sharp pointed
things, such as were used for taking fish, are mentioned in
the last clause, unless it should be understood to mean
the great severity with which the women of Israel should
be driven <»way, in the last captivity of those of the ten
tribes under Hoshea. Instruments not very unlike the
Eastern goads have been used, I think, for catching fish,
and were meant by our translators when they used the
term fish spears, Job xli. 7 ; but then they must have
been much sharper than goads, in order to secure the fish.lj

• Page 130, edit. 5. f P^S^ *10, 111.

i Even shields, which anciently oftentimes had a sharp spike fixed in the
middle of the outside surface. 1 Kings x. 16.

II So Camden, in his account of our native island, tells us, that those that
live by the sides of Solway Frith, hunt salmons, whereof there is great
plenty there, with spears oa horseback. Under his account of Nidisdale


But a goad sharpened to a point like a fi-h spear, must
have been a dreadful instrument to drive rattle with,
wounding them so as to occasion great anguish in their
travelling along, and therefore not an improper represent-
ation, of the sjreat severity used in driving the latter cap-
tives under Hoshea into Assyria.

My reader will observe here, that 1 suppose the word
n'lnx achareethf translated posterity in the 2d \erse, means
rather the remainder, those that came after ti<em that were
first carried away of the ten tribes : so the word is t ice
used, Ezek. xxiii. 25, once translated remnant, and the
other time residtie. And, agreeably to this, we find the
people of the kingdom of the ten tribes were carried away
at twice, the more northern and eastern parts by Tiglath
Pileser,^ the rest several years after, by Shalfnaneser,f
and it is natural to suppose the treatment these last met
with, was more severe than what the first felt.

The last clause probably was designed to express
whether they were to be driven, as some of the old trans-
lations understood it to mean, but it is not the design of
these papers to examine matters of that kind. It is suf-
ficient to observe, that the two words of the 2d verse,
nrv tsinneefh r\2M niTD seeroth dugafit the one rendered
hooks in our version, the other fish hooks, mean sharp
pointed instruments used for the driving away of cattle;
but the last supposed to be more pointed than the first,
and sharpened to such a degree, as even to be fit for the
striking offish. Ye shall be driven awny, ye fatted kine
of Israel, as with goads ; and the last parcel of you with
instruments sharp as fish spears>

• 2 Kings XV. 20. f Ch. xvii. 3, 6.




Among several of the smaller tribes of the Eastern peo-
ple, who are a good deal independent, persons take upon
them to do themselves justice, if they think they are in-
jured, without much notice of it being taken by their su-
periors. A state of things so nearly resembling anarchy
as appears very surprising to Europeans. It seems to have
been the same anciently.

Niebuhr says, thit if two Shekhs of the Druses* quar-
rel, *' they send their peasants into the village of their
enemy, cause the inhabitants to be massacred, cut down
the mulberry and olive trees, and the Emirf oftentimes
does not punish these excesses," J In other cases he
mentions the burning of houses.

I should suppose we are to understand the Philistine
burning the spouse of Samson and her father, not as the
consequence of the regular decision of the nation ; but the
tumultuary exercise of justice like that of the modern
Druses. Samson a principal Israelite, burnt, they were
informed, some of their corn fields, their vineyards and
olive yards, in consequence of an injury he had received ;
and those that had suffered that loss revenged it, by set-
ting fire to the house of him that provoked them to this
vengeance, in which he and his daughter miserably per-
ished. Judges XV. 6.

• The chiefs of their villages : each village having its Shekh. The
Druses being one of the sorts of people that inhabit Libanus.

t The head of that nation.

1: Voy. en Arabic 8c en d'autres Pays, tome 2, p. 550.




A GREAT likeness appears, between the managements
of the Jews, when the chief captain of the Roman garrison
of Jerusalem presented himself in the temple,^ and the
behaviour of the Persian peasants, when they go to court
to complain of the governors under whom thej live, upon
their oppressions becoming intolerable, which resemblance
may place that passage of the Acts of the Apostles in the
particular point of light, in which in truth it ought to be

Sir John Chardin has given us an account of the behav-
iour of the Persian peasants on such occasions, in the 2d
tome of his printed Travels,f where he tells us, " the peo-
ple carry their complaints against their governors by com-
panies, consisting of several hundreds, and sometimes a
thousand ; they repair to that gate of the palace near to
which their prince is most likely to be, where they set
themselves to make the most horrid cries, tearing their
garments, and throwing dust into the air, at the same time

demanding justice The king, upon hearing these

cries, sends to know the occasion of them. The people
deliver their complaint in writing, upon which he lets them
know, that he will commit the cognisance of the alSair to
such, or such an one. In consequence of which it seems
justice is wont to be done them."

Thus when the Jews found Si. Paul in the Temple,
prejudiced as they were again<<t him in general, and then
irritated by a mistaken notion, that he had polluted the
holy place by the introduction of Greeks into it, they rais-

* Acts xxii. 23. t Page 222.


ed a tumult, and appeared to be on the point of tearing the
apostle in pieces ; but no account of throwing dust into
the air, or any mention of their garments, or long continued
cries; there was only an exclamation of the Asiatic Jews
stirring up the people of Jerusalem against the apostle, a
running of the people together upon that, a dragging him
out of that court in which the Jews worshipped, into the
court of the Gentiles, and then falling upon him, and beat-
ing him with such violence as would have ended in the
loss of his life ; when the chief captain of the Roman sol-
diers, who resided in a castle adjoining to the Temple,
hearing the tumult, immediately hastened thither, upon
which they left beating the apostle, and applied them-
selves to him as the principal person in the government
then there, with confused cries that he knew not what to
make of; but upon his giving leave to Paul to explain the
affair in their hearing, they grew into more violent rage than
ever, but not daring to attempt doing themselves justice
as before, they demanded justice much in the same man-
ner as the Persian peasants now do, by loud cries ; throw-
ing down with apparent anguish their clothes on the
ground, after tearing them in pulling them off with violent
emotions, and throwing up dust.

I have, in another volume, touched upon this circum-
stance of the history of St. Luke, and recited the senti-
ments of two different gentlemen on this throwing up the
dust ; but as both of them may appear rather too refined
and far fetched, I thought it proper to set down Sir John
Chardin's account of the way of applying for justice in
Persia, which very exactly tallies with the account here
given of the Jews, and leads us to consider their conduct,
merely as a demand of justice from the Roman command-
ant in Jerusalem, according to the usual Asiatic form,
svhich continues to this day.




The feet as well as the hands of criminals are wont to
be secured, some how or other, by the people of the East,
when they are brought out to be punished, to which there
seems to be a plain allusion in the Old Testament.

Thus when Irwin was among the Arabs of Upper
Egypt, where he was very ill used, but his wrongs after-
ward redressed by the great Sheikh there, who had been
absent, and who, it seems, was a man of exemplary probity
and virtue ; he tells us, that upon that Sheikh's holding
a great court of justice, about Irwin's affairs and those of
his companions, the bastinado was given to one of those
who had injured them, which he thus describes in a note,
p. 271 : " The prisoner is placed upright on the ground,
with his hands and feet bojjnd tooefher, while the execu-
tioner stands before hiin, and, with a short stick, strikes
him with a smart motion on the outside of his knees. The
pain which arises from these strokes is exquisitely severe,
and which no constitution can support for anj con-

As the Arabs are extremely remarkable for their re-
taining old customs, we have just grounds of believing,
that when malefactors in the East were punished, by-
beating, and perhaps with death by the sword, their hands
were bound together, and also their feet*

How impertinent, according to this, is the interpreta-
tion that VictorinuB Strigelius gives of 2 Sam. iii. 34 ! as
he is cited by Bishop Patrick in his Commentary on those
words : The king lamented over Abner, and said, Died
Abner as a fool dieth ? Thy hands were not bo\md, nor
thy feet 'put into fetters ; as a man falleth before wicked
men, sofellest thou. And all the people wept again over


"Strigelius," says the Bi&liop, "thinks that David in
{hese words, distinguishes him from those criminals,
^hose hands being tied behind them, are carried to execu-
tion ; and from those idle soldiers, who being taken cap-
tive iri war, have fetters clapt upon their legs, to kepp them
from running away. He was none of these ; neither a
notorious offender, nor a coward." Patrick adds, "The
plain meaning seems to be ; that if his enemy had set
upon him openly, he had been able to make his part goo J
with him.'*

How impertinent the latter part of what Strigelius says !
how foreign from the thought of David, not to say incon-
sistent with itself, the explanation of the English prelate!
What is meant appears to be simply this : Died Abner as
a fool, that is, as a bad man, as that word frequently sig-
nifies in the Scriptures? Died he as one found on judg-
ment to be criminal, dieth? No! Thy hands, O Abner!
were not bound as being found such, nor thy feet confined ;
on the contrary, thou wert treated with honor by him
whose business it was to judge thee, and thy attachment to
the house of Saul esteemed rather generous than culpable :
as the best of men may fall, so feilest thou by the sword
of treachery, not of justice !




Britons, who are used to slowness and solemnity of
procedure, with regard to supposed criminals ; who always
expect that a number of independent persons should be
concerned in determining their fate, and those their equals
in rank,* who find a considerable length of time is wont to
intervene between condemnation and execution; and

* A jury of their peers.

VOL. Ill, 37


this execution openly performed, in the presence of alif
who choose to attend; are wont to be surprised, as well
as pained, on reading accounts of the Oriental privacy,
rapidity, and silent submission of their great men, when
they are put to death, which appear both in the Turkish
and Persian histories.

What Thevenot* says, concerning the manner of put-
ting great men among the Turks to death, is confirmed
by a great multitude of other writers. When, it seems,
the enemies of a great man have gained influence enough
over the prince, to procure a warrant for his death, a ca-
pidgi, the name of the oflScer who executes these orders,
is sent to him, who "shows him the order he has to
carry back his head ; the other takes the Grand Sif^n-
ior's order, kisses it, puts it on his head in sign of
respect, and then having performed his ablution, and
said his prayers, freely gives up his head : the capidgi
ibaving strangled him, or caused servants whom he
fcrougbt purposely with him to do it, cuts oflf his head,
and brings it to Constantinople, Thus they blindly obey
the (jrrand Signior's order, the servants never offer to
hinder the executioner, though these capidges come very
often with few or no attendants at all."

Sir John Chardin gives a similar account of the silent,
hasty, and unobstructed manner of putting the great men
of Persia to death. Much the same method, it seems,
was used by the ancient Jewish princes. Benaiah was
the capidgi, to use the modern Turkish term, who was
sent by Solomon to put Adonijah, a prince of the blood,
to death ;t and Joab, the commander of the army in
chief.J A capidgi, in like manner, beheaded John the
Baptist in prison, and carried his head away with him to
the court of Herod the Tetrarch.|| So a capidgi was
sent to take off the head of the Prophet Elisha, by king
Jehorara ; but the execution was prevented, by the king's

* 1 Part 1, ch.46. f 1 Kings ii. 25. + Ver. 29, 30^ 34.

II Matt. xiv. 10, 11.


Smmediatelj following, and receiving a prophetic assur-
ance, that the famine which then most terribly distressed
the city, should terminate in four and twenty hours. ^

Great energy will be given to the term messengers of
death, mentioned by Solomon, Prov. xvi. 14, if we un-
derstand those woids of the capidges of the ancient Jew-
ish princes : The wrath of a king is as messengers of
death, but a wise man will pacify it. His wrath puts a
man in danger of immediaie death, and may chill the
blood like the appearance of a capidgi; but by wisdom a
man may sometimes escape the danger.

The behaviour of Elisha may be supposed to be a
proof, that the ancient Jews were not so submissive to
the orders brought by the messengers of death, of that
country, as the Turks and Persians of later times, Je-
horam's sending however, only a single person, to take
oflf the head of the Prophet, seems to show that they
were, or nearly so. It is to be remembered, that the
capidges of later ages, have been persuaded sometimes to
delay ao execution, or attempts at least have been made
use of to persuade them to do it, \n hope of a counter
order ; and at other times the condemned person may
have delayed a while the making his appearance, imagin.
ing there might be a relenting in the prince. Chardin has*
given us an example of the first, in the case of a black
servant, who went along with his master to take off the
head of a Persian general, and who joined with the sup-
posed criminal in begging for a little delay, but who could
not prevail ; when scarcely was the messenger of death
remounted on his horse, when a counter order was brought,
and the general's death very much regretted by the
prince who commanded it.f

Elisha, it should seem, begged the elders of Israel that
were with him, to detain the messenger of death a few
minutes at the door, until the king should arrive, who was
closely following him, probably as repenting of what he

» 2 Kings ▼!. 32, $3. \ Voy. toroe 3, p. 148.


had commanded. He could not, however, forbear ex-
claiming, when he saw the Prophet, who, 1 should appre-
hend, had given him hopes of deliverance out of Ihe hands
of the king of Syria, who had been promising him favour
if he jielded, and at the same time threatening him if he
persisted in holding out the city against him, exclaiming,
I saj, This calamity is of God! it cannot be avoided!
why should 1 wait in a vain expectation of escaping from
him, by depending, O Elisha, on thy flattering assurances
of not falling into his hands, through which assurances
my people are exj)iring with hunger, and even mothers
constrained to eat their own children ? Then the Prophet
persuaded him to wait twentyfour hours longer, declaring^
with great positiveness and precision, upon pain of being
put immediately to death, that within that time, plenty
should be restored to Samaria. After some such a man-
ner as this, I should think, this passage is to be understood.




None of the commentators whom I have seen, seem to
rae to have given the true explanation of that expressioh
of sacred history, relating to the extermination of ancient
royal families in the East, which describes every male as
cut off, ** There was no one remaining, either shut up or
left in Israel :" the expression being to be understood, I
apprehend, as signifying, that no one should remain, in a
situation from whence it might be expected he would as-
sert and endeavour to make good, his claim to the crown ;
nor any one left of those from whom nothing was appre-
hended, cither on account of mental or bodily imperfec-
tion, or the unsuspicious temper of the conqueror.


The expression is made use of in relation lo the families
of Jeroboam,"^ and Ahab,f kings of Israel ; and occurs
also in some other places of holy writjj which may be il-
lustrated by explaining the phrase, as used in relation to
those two ancient royal families of the Jewish nation.

The explanations of commentators are very various, but
none of them satisfactory. That which I haTe to pro-
pose, and would sjibmit to the reader, is founded on
Eastern historical events.

Some times, when a successfjil prince has endeavoured
to extirpate the preceding royal family, some of them
have escaped the slaughter, and have secured themselveB
in some impregnable fortress, or place of great secresy ;
while others have sought an asylum in some foreign coun-
try, from whence they have occasioned, from time to time,
great anxiety and great difficulties to the usurper of their

The word shut up, strictly speaking, refers to the two
first of these cases. When Athaliah endeavoured to
destroy all the seed royal of Judah,|| that she might
herself reign, one child alone was preserved, Joash by
name, who was kept with great secresy for some years,
shut up in a private apartment of the Temple, from whence
he was brought forth in due time, and actually recovered
the crown.

Other princes have shut up themselves in impregnable
fortresses, and from thence have given great alarm to their
rivals, and, it may be, at length re-established themselves
in the government of their hereditary countries, or of
part of them.

Those of royal blood in either of these situations come,
strictly speaking, under this description, of persons shut

• 1 Kings xiv. 10. Therefore, beholdy 1 -wilt bring evil upon the house
of Jeroboam, and -will cut off from Jeroboam, him that pisaeth against the.
■wall, and him that is shut tip and left in Israel, and -will take a-way the
remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh a-way dung, until it
be all gone. | I Kings xxi. 21; 2 Kings ix. 8.

t Deut. xxxii. 36 ; 2 Kings xiv. 26^ ll 2 Kiugs xi. t.


up. But the term may be used in a more extensive sense,
for those princes who, by retiring into deserts, or into
foreign countries, preserve themselves from being slain
bjr those who have usurped the dominions of their ances-
tors. Thus the term is applied to David, when he lived
in Ziklag, in the time of King Saul, 1 Chron. xii. 1 : Now
ihese are they that came to David to Ziklag, while he
yet kept himself close, or more exactly according to the
Hebrew, as the margin observes, being yet shut up, be-
cause of Saul the son of Kish ; and they rvere among
the mighty men, helpers of the war, David did not shut
himself up, strictly speaking, in Ziklag. It is described
as a town in the country, in contradistinction from the
royal city of the Philistines, 1 Sam. xxvii. 5, perhaps
then an unwalled town : but however that was, it is cer-
tain he did not confine himself in Ziklag ; he was on the
contrary, continually making excursions from thence, as
"we are informed, verse 8, &c. But being there in a state
of safety, from whence he might in some favourable mq*
ment seize the kingdom, the term shut up is applied to
him in a less exact sense.

In this sense in like manner, Hadad of the king's seed
in Edom, might be described as one shut up, in the time
of King David, and his son Solomon : for, retiring into
Egypt, he continued there waiting for some opportunity
of repossessing himself of that country. And the Lord
stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the
Edomite ; he was of the king^s seed in Edom, For it
came to pass when David was in Edom, and Joab the
captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after
he had smitten every male in Edom .... That Hadad
fled, he and certain Edomites of his father^ s servants
with him, to go into Egypt ; Hadad being yet a little
child. And they arose out of Midian, and came to Pa-
ran ;' and they took men with them out of Paran, and
they came to Egypt unto Pharaoh king of Egypt, which
gave him a house, and appointed him victuals, and gave
him land. 1 Kings xi. 14, 15, 17, 18,


But as to the families of Jeroboam and Ahab, God
threatened, not only that they should be despoiled of the
kingdom, but that the destruction should be without any
hope of recovery : none being preserved, either in some
secret place of concealment among their friends ; or by
flying to some strong city, from whence they might CX'
cite great alarm, if not much trouble : or by escaping into
some foreign country, from whence their antagonist might
dread their return ; none by whose means it might be
supposed those families might recover themselves, and
regain the possession of the throne of the ten tribes.

And not only so, but that no branch of those families
whatsoever should remain, none left of those from whom no
danger was apprehended. In later times in the East, some-
times persons of royal descent havebeen left alive, when the
rest of a family have been cutoff; because it was thought
there were no grounds of suspicion of any danger result-^
ing from them, either on account of defects in their un-

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 23 of 35)