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The people of the East are exceedingly addicted to apologues, and use them to convey instructions or reproof, which with them could scarcely be done so well in any
other way. Has a man been told a secret, he says, in repeating it, for instance, “ A tree told me this morning, that Kandan offered a large bribe to the Modeliar, to get Muttoo turned out of his situation." Does a man of low caste wish to unite his son in marriage to the daughter of one who is high, the latter will say, “ Have you heard that the pumpkin wants to be married to the plantain tree ?” Is a wife steril, “ The cocoa-nut tree in Viraver's garden does not bear any fruit.” Has a woman had children by improper intercourse, it is said of her husband's garden, “ Ah, the palmirah trees are now giving cocoa-nuts.” Has a man given his daughter in marriage to another who uses her unkindly, he says, “ I have planted the sugar-cane by the side of the margossa (bitter) tree.
IX. 33.- 6 As thou shalt find occasion.” The Hebrew
has, “ As thine hand shall find.” (1 Sam. x. 7.
margin.) In asking a favour, it is common, to say, “ You must not deny me, sir; but as your hand finds opportunity, so you must assist me."-" Well, my friend, when I have the opportunity of the hand, I will assist you." " The man has assisted me according to the opportunity of his hand; what can he do
X. 8. — “ Oppressed the children.” The Hebrew has,
“ crushed.” Of a severe master it is said, “He crushes his servants." “ Ah! my lord, crush me not.” “ When will the king cease to crush his people ?”
XI. 40. — “ The daughters of Israel went yearly to
lament the daughter of Jephthah."
Some suppose the above not to be a correct translation; and others believe that the daughter of Jephthah did not suffer. It is, however, a custom in all parts of the East to lament once a year (on the anniversary of the death of a relation), and to go to the place where the deceased was buried, or burned, or where the ashes may be deposited.
XII. 3. — “I put my life in my hands." The Ephraimites had found fault with Jephthah because he did not call them to war against the Ammonites, but he vindicated himself, and addressed them in the language of the verse, as a proof of his courage, and that he had been exposed to danger. The Hindoos use the same figure; and the idea appears to be taken from a man carrying something very precious in his hands, and that under circumstances of great danger. When a son who has been long absent returns home, his father says, “ My son has returned from the far country with his life in his hand;" which means, he has passed through many dangers. “ Last night, as I went home through the place of evil spirits, I put my life in my hands.”
“ The other day, in passing through the forest, I put my life in my hands, for the beasts were near to me in every direction.” Danger! truly so; I put my life in my bosom.”
“O that divine doctor! my son was at the point of death, but he brought his life in his hand.”
14. — “He had forty sons.” To an Englishman, this may appear almost incredible, but we have a great number of similar cases. A man of property has as many wives as he thinks proper to support; and such is the state of morals, that he finds no difficulty in procuring them. I have known men who have had, in each of the neighbouring villages, a wife or concubine. Santherasega, Modeliar of Oodeputty, who has been dead about thirty years, had two wives and six concubines, who bare to him thirty children. The old man is described as being of large stature, and as having indulged in strong kinds of food.*
XIII. 5. — “ Thou shalt conceive, and bear a son, and
no razor shall come on his head.” This command was given to the wife of Manoah, the father of Samson, who had previously been steril.
Hannah, the mother of Samuel, was also steril, “ and she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but will give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” (Numbers vi. 5. Acts xviii. 18.)
All who are married in the East, have an intense desire for children. It is considered disgraceful, and a mark of the displeasure of the gods, to have a childless house. Under these circumstances, husbands and wives perform expensive ceremonies; and vow, that should the gods favour them with a son,
“no razor shall come upon his head,” (i.e. excepting " the corners,") until he shall be ten or twelve years of age. In all schools, boys may be seen with elf-locks of ten or twelve years standing, giving a testimony to the solicitude, superstition, and affection of the parents, and a memorial of the favour of their deities.
* A friend of mine in Manilla knew a man who was the father of forty children.
Lieut.-Colonel Johnson says (in his Travels through Persia) of the king, “ The number of his children I could not exactly ascertain : it is generally agreed that he has at least sixty boys and sixty girls living; and many persons add, that there are an equal number deceased, so that their total number must have been two hundred and forty. He has already given in marriage twelve of his daughters; and about twenty-five of the elder of his sons are governors of the principal provinces and cities of the empire. Preparations of fire-works, &c. were at this time making at the palace to celebrate the nuptials of one of his sons, which were to take place in about three weeks.
Some of the king's elder sons, besides their commands of provinces and cities, which all of them possess, are in confidential situations about his person or household: the present monarch appears to be about forty-five years of age, and has reigned twenty years.” — P. 132.
Nearly every nation of antiquity makes its boast of having produced some one, who, in strength or valour, corresponded with Hercules, the son of Jupiter and Alcmena. Many ingenious and learned men have endeavoured to prove that the Samson of the Israelites was the great prototype of the Theban Hercules, and of all his imitators. In this opinion I am disposed to concur; and have been much interested to find, that the Hercules of the East affords many striking coincidences with the hero of the Jews. Some, in reading the following account, may suppose I have something like a concealed opinion, that Samson performed some of his exploits in India and Ceylon. I am, however, nearly convinced he did not travel so far (though it would not have been a long journey), and, therefore, where localities, and traditions, and facts fix themselves on some spot as the scene of his operations, I think it may be inferred, that the historian or poet has thus transferred the adventures of his hero, to identify him with his own nation.
In the early part of the last century, some of the learned and indefatigable Danish Missionaries, who labored in Tranquebar and other parts of India, published a work in the Malabar language, in which they express their opinion, that the Rāmar of India and the Samson of the Scriptures are one person.*
According to the calculations of the lamented Bentley, of Calcutta, Rámar was born 961 years before Christ. In reference to the birth of Samson; Usher, Calmet, and many others, believe he was born about 1156 years before Christ. In these accounts, then, formed with no intention to identify the individuals, and upon such different data, we only find a difference of 195 years!
It has been clearly proved that the history of Rāmar was not composed (from its various sources) till the year A.D. 295 ; consequently after the lapse of so many ages, changes of names and places, events and fiction would be introduced.
Besides, as Samson was born 195 years before the Indian Rāmar, this gives full time and scope for transplanting the leading features of his character into their own soil.
The following are some of the principal events in the history of Rāmar. The name of his father was Tasāther, and that of his mother Kosāli. She had been steril sixty thousand years, when a divine Rishi appeared to the unhappy couple, and directed them to call a hermit, who lived in the wilderness, and to make the sacrifice of a kid called the puttra-yāgam*, in order to procure children. They complied; and whilst they were making the offering, a celestial being arose from the flames with rice in his hand, and gave it to the mother of the future Rāmar. At the sight they were greatly afraid, and fell to the ground.
While Rāmar was young, he was greatly delighted in going to the camp. A certain king had a beautiful daughter, who was promised in marriage to the man who could break a certain bow; which feat was performed by Rāmar. He is famed for slaying a lion and two giants; also multitudes of his enemies; for throwing down hills, and tearing up the forests.
His beautiful wife Seethe was stolen by Rāvenan, the giant king of Ceylon, and taken to his island. Rāmar then sent the monkey called Anuman to search for his wife, who soon found her, but was discovered by the giant king. Anuman was seized, and brought into the presence of his majesty of Lanca, when the order was given to cut the monkey down; but the brother of the king having expostulated with him, an order was given to tie oiled rags around his tail, to set them on fire, and let him go. This being done, the monkey went into the fields and gardens, set them on fire, and the whole country was desolated.
Compare this with the history of Samson. His mother, like Rāmar's, was steril. They both made an offering to procure a child; they were mutually afraid at what they saw during the sacrifice; they both succeeded in their desires. “ Manoah's wife was barren." “ Manoah took a kid and offered it." 6. Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground.” “The woman bare a son, and called his name Samson.”
Literally, the sacrifice for children.