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THE EARLIEST PERIOD TO THE PRESENT TIME.
BY THE REV. MICHAEL RUSSELL, LL.D.
Author of “ View of Ancient and Modern Egypt,” &c.
In giving an account of the Holy Land, an author, upon examining his materials, finds himself presented with the choice either of simple history on the one hand, or of mere local description on the other; and the character of his book is of course determined by the selection which he makes of the first or the second of these departments. The volumes on Palestine hitherto laid before the public, will accordingly be found to contain either a bare abridgment of the annals of the Jewish people, or a topographical delineation of the country, the cities, and the towns which they inhabited, from the date of the conquest under Joshua, down to the period of their dispersion by Titus and Adrian. Several able works have recently appeared on each of these subjects, and have been, almost without exception, rewarded with the popularity which is seldom refused to learning and eloquence. But it occurred to the writer of the following pages, that the expectations of the general reader would be more fully answered, were the two plans to be united, and the constitution, the antiquities, the religion, the literature, and even the statistics of the Hebrews, combined with the narrative of their rise and fall in the sacred land bestowed upon their fathers.
In following out this scheme, he has made it his study to leave no source of information unexplored which might supply the means of illustrating the political condition of the Twelve Tribes immediately after they settled on the banks of the Jordan. The principles which entered into the constitution of their commonwealth are extremely interesting, both as they afford a fine example of the progress of society in one of its earliest stages, when the migratory shepherd gradually assumes the habits of the agriculturist; and also as they confirm the results of experience, in other cases, in regard to the change which usually follows in the form of civil government, and in the concentration of power in the hands of an individual.
The chapter on the Literature and Religion of the Ancient Hebrews cannot boast of a great variety of materials, because what of the subject is not known to the youngest reader of the Bible must be sought for in the writings of Rabbinical authors, who have unfortunately directed the largest share of their attention to the minutest parts of their Law, and expended the labour of elucidation on those points which are least interesting to the rest of the world. It is to be deeply regretted, that so little is known respecting the Schools of the Prophets,
those seminaries which sent forth not only the ordinary ministers of the Temple and the Synagogue, but also that more distinguished order of men who were employed as instruments for revealing the future intentions of Providence. But the Author hesitates not to say, that he has availed himself of all the materials which the research of modern times has brought to light, while he has carefully rejected
all such speculations or conjectures as might gratify the curiosity of learning without tending to edify the youthful mind. The account which is given of the Feasts and Fasts of the Jews, both before and after the Babylonian Captivity, will, it is hoped, prove useful to the reader, more especially by pointing out to him appropriate subjects of reflection while perusing the Sacred Records.
The history of Palestine, prior to the Fall of Jerusalem, rests upon the authority of the inspired .writers, or of those annalists, such as Josephus and
Tacitus, who flourished at the period the events of which they describe. The narrative, which brings down the fortunes of that remarkable country to the present day, is much more various both in its subject and references; more especially where it embraces the exploits of the Crusaders, those renowned devotees of religion, romance, and chivalry. The reader will find in a narrow compass the substance of the extensive works of Fuller, Wilken, Michaud, and Mills. In the more modern part of this historical outline, in which the affairs of Palestine are intimately connected with those of Egypt, it was thought unnecessary to repeat facts mentioned at some length in the volume already published on the latter country.
The topographical description of the Holy Land is drawn from the works of the long series of travellers and pilgrims, who, since the time of the faithful Doubdan, have visited the interesting scenes where the Christian Faith had its origin and completion. On this subject Maundrell is still a principal authority; for, while we have the best reason to believe that he recorded nothing but what he