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XIII. 7.-" And there was a strife between the herd
men of Abram's cattle, and the herdmen of Lot's cattle. 26. 20. — And the herdmen of Gerar did strive with Isaac's herdmen, saying, The water is
ours.” How often have I been reminded of the strife of the herdmen of the Scriptures, by seeing, on a distant plain, a number of shepherds or husbandmen struggling together respecting some of the same causes which promoted strife in the patri
The fields are not, as in England, enclosed by fences; there is simply a ridge which divides one from another. Hence the cattle belonging to one person find no difficulty in straying into the field of another, and the shepherds themselves have so little principle, that they gladly take advantage of it. Nothing is more common than for a man, when the sun has gone down, thus to injure his neighbour. The time when most disputes take place, is when the paddy, or rice, has been newly cut, as the grass left amongst the stubble is then long and green. The herdmen at that time become very tenacious, and woe to the ox, if within reach of stick or stone, until he shall get into his own field. Then the men of the other party start up on seeing their cattle beaten, and begin to swear, and declare how often the others have done the same thing. They now approach each other, vociferating the most opprobrious epithets: the hands swiftly move about in
every direction ; one pretends to take up a stone, or spits on the ground in token of contempt; and then comes the contest - the long hair is soon dishevelled, and the weaker fall beneath their antagonists. Then begins the beating, biting, and scratching, till in their cruel rage they have nearly destroyed some of the party. The next business is with the magistrate: all are clamorous for justice; and great must be bis patience, and great his discernment, to find out the truth,
Another common cause of strife is that which took place between the herdmen of Gerar and those of Isaac. Water is at all times very precious in the East, but especially in the dry season ; as the tanks are then nearly exhausted, and what remains is scarcely fit for use. At that time recourse must be had to the wells; which are often made at the expense or labour of five, ten, or twenty people. Here, then, is the cause of contention. One man has numerous herds* ; he gets there first, and almost exhausts the well; the others come, and, seeing what is done, begin the affray. But the most common cause of quarrel is when the owners of the well have to irrigate their lands from the same source. To prevent these contests, they have generally each an appointed time for watering their lands; or, it may be, that those who get there first, shall have the privilege: but where there is so little integrity, it is no wonder there should be so much strife.
XIV. 14.-“Servants born in his own house.” Abram had trained his three hundred and eighteen servants to arms, and with them he rescued his brother Lot, and brought back his “goods, and the women also, and the people.”
To Englishmen it may appear strange that Abram should have so many servants, and that they were born in his own house. Many Hindoos in North Ceylon once possessed numbers of slaves, who were all born on their own grounds. I know a man who once had nearly one thousand of his fellow creatures. Not that they always worked for him, or were dependent upon him; they were the descendants of his slaves, and were, in the strongest sense of the word, his vassals. Neither were they descended from men of other nations, but from Hindoos only; and some of them from the same caste as their master.
17.-" The king of Sodom went out to meet him.” The conduct of this king, of Abraham, of Lot, of Saul, of the father of the prodigal, and of many others, is beautifully
• A man in the Wanny has more than nine hundred buffaloes.
illustrated by the manners of the East, at this day. Not to meet a friend, or an expected guest, would be considered as rude in the extreme. So soon as the host hears of the approach of his visitant, he and his attendants go forth in courtly style; and when they meet him, the host addresses him, “Ah! this is a happy day for me; by your favour I am found in health.” He will then, perhaps, put his arm round his waist, or gently tap him on the shoulder, as they proceed towards the house. When at the door, he again makes his bow, and politely ushers him in; and the rest joyfully follow, congratulating each other on the happy meeting.
22.-—“I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord the
Most High God." To lift up the right hand with the fingers towards heaven is equivalent to an oath. Hence Dr. Boothroyd has rendered the passage, “I swear to Jehovah.” To lift up the hand in confirmation of any thing is considered a most sacred way of swearing. In Isaiah lxii. 8. it is written, “ The Lord hath sworn by his right hand.” It is an interesting fact that many of the images of the gods of the heathen have the right hand lifted up, which, to the understanding of the people, says, “I am God; I am truth ; I myself; I am. Fear not.” *
Does a man make a solemn promise, and should the person to whom it is made express a doubt; he will say, “ Lift up your hand ;” which means, swear that you will perform it.
In the month of December, when evil spirits are believed to roam about, the people dip their hands in a strong solution of lime, and then strike the door or walls of their dwellings; the impression indicates that the inmates are under the protection of God: they are true; it is confirmed by an oath.
In Orme's History of Hindostan, vol. i. 348., mention is made of a letter directed to Mahomed Issoof, by the Regent of Mysore, “ sealed with his seal of signature; and on the back was stamped the print of a hand, - a form, with the Mysoreans, equivalent to an oath.”
23.-" I will not take from a thread even to a shoe
latchet." This may
refer to the red thread worn round the neck or the arm, and which binds on the amulet; or the string with which females tie up the hair. The latchet I suppose to mean the thong of the sandal, which goes over the top of the foot, and betwixt the great and little toes. It is proverbial to say, should a man be accused of taking away some valuable article which belongs to another, “I have not taken away even a piece of the thong of your worn-out sandals.”
XV. 17, 18.-“ A burning lamp that passed between
those pieces,” —-" In the same day the Lord
made a covenant with Abram.” Several eminent critics believe the lamp of fire was an emblem of the Divine presence, and that it ratified the covenant with Abram,
It is an interesting fact, that the burning lamp or fire is still used in the East in confirmation of a covenant. Should a person in the evening make a solemn promise to perform something for another, and should the latter doubt his word, the former will say, pointing to the flame of the lamp, “That is the witness.” On occasions of greater importance, when two or more join in a covenant, should the fidelity of
be questioned, they will say, “ We invoke the lamp of the Temple” (as a witness). When an agreement of this kind has been broken, it will be said, “ Who would have thought this ? for the lamp of the Temple was invoked.”
That fire was a symbol of the Divine presence, no one acquainted with the sacred Scriptures can deny; and in the literature and customs of the East, the same thing is still asserted. In the ancient writings, where the marriages of the gods and demigods are described, it is always said the ceremony was performed in the presence of the god of fire. He was the witness. But it is also a general practice, at the celebration of respectable marriages at this day, to have a fire as a witness of the transaction. It is made of the wood of the Mango-tree, or the Aal or Arasu, or Panne or Palāsu. The fire being kindled in the centre of the room, the young couple sit on stools; but when the Brahmin begins to repeat the incantations, they arise, and the bridegroom puts the little finger of his left hand round the little finger of the right hand of the bride, and they walk round the fire three times from left to right. “ Fire is the witness of their covenant; and if they break it, fire will be their destruction."
In the Scanda Purāna, the father of the virgin who was to be married to the son of the Rishi, said to him, “Call your son, that I may give to him my daughter in the presence of the god of fire, that he may be the witness ;" that being done, “ Usteyār gave his daughter Verunte in marriage, the fire being the witness."
XVI. 2.-“ Obtain children by her.” The Hebrew
has “ Be builded by her.” When a wife has been for some time considered steril, should she have a child, she is said to be making her house new, or rather, she has caused the house to be newly built. When a man marries," he is making a new house.”
XVIII. 1. — " And he sat in the tent door in the heat
of the day.” Often has my mind reverted to the scene of the good old patriarch sitting in the door of his tent in the heat of the day. When the sun is at the meridian, the wind often becomes softer, and the heat more oppressive; and then may be seen the people seated in the doors of their huts, to inhale the breezes, and to let them blow on their almost naked bodies.
and looked." To lift up the eyes does not mean to look upwards, but to look directly at an object, and that earnestly. A man coming from the jungle might say, “ As I came this morning, I lifted up my eyes, and behold, I saw three elephants.” “ Have
2.-" He lift