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the learned have accounted for this injunction several ways, but the most probable is that which makes it to have been given with a design to distinguish the oblations of the Hebrews from those of the Egyptians, who were used to put honey with them'. The second is, that in every oblation it was absolutely necessary there should be salt“. To which law there are some allusions in the gospel'. Thirdly, offerings were to be of unleavened bread", except the two loaves at the feast of Pentecost, which were leavened "; but it is to be observed that these were not offered upon the altar.
Besides the first-born of living creatures, which by the law were consecrated to God, the first
Of first-fruits. fruits of all kinds of corn and fruit, were also appropriated to him*, as of grapes, figs, pomegranates
, and dates“, The first-fruits of sheep's wool were also offered for the use of the Levites b. The law doth not fix the quantity of these first-fruits. But the Thalmudists tell us, that liberal persons were wont to give the fortieth, and even the thirtieth ; and such as were niggardly, the sixtieth part. The first of these they called an oblation with a good eye, and the second an oblation with an evil
eye. Which may serve to illustrate Jesus Christ's expression. These first, fruits were offered from the feast of Pentecost till that of dedication, because after that time the fruits were neither so good, nor so beautiful as before d. The Jews were forbidden to begin their harvest, till they had offered up to God the omer, that is, the new sheaf, which was done after the day of unleavened bread, or the Passover Neither were they allowed to bake any bread made of new corn, till they had presented the
(1) To which may be added, that the bee was ranked among the unclean animals. (u) Levit. ii. 13.
(x) Mark ix. 49, 50. Colos. iv. 6. (y) Levit. ii. 11.
(z) Levit. xxiii. 17. But were not burnt upon the altar. See Levit. ii. 12. (a) Numb. xv. 7. xviii. 12, 13. Deut. xxvi. 2. Nehem. X. 35. (6) Deut. xviii. 4.
(c) Matt. xx. 15. (d) The feast of dedication was in December. (e) Levit. xxiii. 10, 14.
that is, 1. Into vows whereby men bound themselves to abstain from things otherwise lawful, as of such and such a kind of food, clothes, or actions; and, 2. Into those vows whereby either persons or things were devoted to God. Of the first sort was the vow of the Rechabites, of which we have taken an occasion to speak before. That of the Nazarites. did partake of both; for they were persons consecrated to God, and their vow consisted of several kinds of abstinence. There were two sorts of them ", some being consecrated to God for their whole life, as Sampson, Samuel, John the Baptist, &c. and others only for a time, i. e. for thirty days at least. Some authors infer from two passages in the Acts“, that St. Paul was a Nazarite of the second kind. In one of these places it is said, that St. Paul had his head shorn at Cenchrea, because he made a vow; but that could not well be the vow of a Nazarite; since, after it, he would not have had his head shorn at Cenchrea, which was a sea-port near Corinth, but at Jerusalem, according to the law, and even in the temple, or at least in the holy land. It is then more likely that this was some other vow, which the apostle had bound himself by. In the other passage it is not said that St. Paul had made any vow, but only he is therein advised to bear the expence of the sacrifices, which four of his companions, who had engaged themselves by a vow, were to offer. This is the sense we have followed in our note on that place, in which we have rather chosen to leave the matter undecided, than advance anything uncertain. By what the scripture says of the vow of the Nazarites, one would think that it is more ancient than the ceremonial law ; for the legislator does not enjoin or command it, but only prescribes what ceremonies are to be used by those that shall make it. The Nazarites were chiefly bound to
(z) The word Nazarite signifies in Hebrew a person set apart or Consecrated. (3) Numb. vi. 2. (3) Acts xviii. 18. xi. 23, 24, 26.
observe these four particulars, which have by the Rabbins been subdivided into several others. 1. To abstain from wine, strong drink, and vinegar, and from all intoxicating liquor in general, or anything of the like nature; 2. To wear long hair, and let no razor come on their heads a; 3. To take care not to pollute themselves by touching, or going near a dead body, even though it were their own father or mother, and to purify themselves, when they happened to do it unawares ; 4. To offer some certain sacrifices, to shave their heads, and fling their hair into the fire, when the time appointed by their vow was expired. There was in the temple a room set apart for that use.
Of all the vows recorded in holy scripture, there is none more remarkable, or that hath more puzzled commentators, than that whereby Jephthah bound himself to offer unto the Lord for a burnt-offering, whatsoever should come forth of the doors of his house to meet him, when he returned in peace from fighting against the children of Ammon'. Jephthah's design was undoubtedly to present unto God an acceptable, and consequently a lawful offering. Otherwise it would have been not only an impious, but a rash action; since his aim was hereby to induce God to prosper his expedition against the Ammonites. Besides Jephthah is no where represented as a profane or irreligious person. The scripture testifies, on the contrary, that the Spirit of God was upon himd; and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews ranks him among those sacred heroes, whose faith he celebrates. It is then somewhat strange, that his duughter having been the first thing he met at his return, he should think himself obliged to offer so barbarous and so inhuman a sacrifice, merely for the sake of a vow expressed in a general, and consequently
(a) The Egyptian priests were wont to keep their heads constantly shaved.
(6) From whence it follows that the Nazarites were: holier than the common priests. Lev. xxi. 2. (c) Judg. xi. 31. (d) Ibid. ver. 29. (e) Heb. xi. 32.
a rash manner. He could not but know that such a sacrifice must have been an abomination to the Lord, who hath not made men to destroy them. God himself, by the mouth of his prophet Isaiah, sets human sacrifices upon the same foot with that of a dog, the offering of swine's blood, and idolatry. And that he takes no pleasure in them, is evident from his bringing a ram to be sacrificed in the stead of Isaac, whom he commanded to be offered up, with no other intent but only to try Abraham's faith and obedience. If, according to the laws, there were persons, and virgins in particular, consecrated to God, upon several occasions; it was not that they should be offered up to him in sacrifice, but only employed about holy things; and then they might be redeemed, as hath been observed before, which Jephthah, as being a Hebrew could not be ignorant of. These reasons have determined some of the most learned writers" to assert, that Jephthah did not vow to sacrifice his daughter, but only to consecrate her to God, as a virgin for her whole life, which they suppose he did. The words of the vow may indeed be translated thus, whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me—shall surely be the Lord's, or I will offer, it for a burnt-offering ; the Hebrew particle, which is commonly rendered by and, often signifying or, according to the observation of a late learned author: According to this supposition, Jephthah's vow was conditional. As he might happen at his return to meet either a human creature, or a beast, the first he designed to consecrate unto God, and offer the latter for a burnt-offering, provided it was clean, or else exchange it, if it was unclean. What confirms this opinion, is, that in the account of the fulfilling of this vow, there is not the least mention of a burnt-offering". Which is () Isa. Ixvi. 3.
(g) Numb. xxxi. 28, 30, 35. xxvii. 2, 6.
(h) Mr. Le Clerc, &c. See the margin of our English translation.
(i) Reland. For instances of this, See Exod. xxi, 15, 17, and i. 10, xii. 5. Isa. vii. 6, &c. (k) Judg. xi.
such an omission as cannot well be accounted for, had the daughter of Jephthah been offered up in sacrifice. On the contrary, there was nothing but her virginity mentioned. She went upon the mountains, and bewailed it, because she was condemned to a perpetual one; and the daughters of Israel were wont yearly to celebrate this remarkable event four days in a year'. The only objection advanced against this, is taken from the consternation Jepththah was in, upon meeting his daughter. He rent his clothes, and made great lamentation. But if we reflect upon the temper of that people, and the notions that prevailed in those times, we shall find, that Jephthah having but this one child, it was a great affliction for him to see himself by this vow deprived of all hopes of a posterity; and the not redeeming of her, as he might have done, was a very remarkable instance of his piety and gratitude. We shall not however determine which of the two opinions is the truest, but leave it to the learned to decide the matter. To return then from this digression.
In giving an account of the holy things of the Jews, we must not pass over circumcision, since it
Concerning was a sacrament of the Jewish religion, and
circumcision. a seal of the covenant which God made with Abraham and his posterity ".
It is notwithstanding certain, that is was practised among other nations, as the Egyptians and Ethiopians", but for quite other reasons, and with different circumstances. This however hath occasioned some disputes concerning the origin of this ceremony.
But we shall not examine the arguments that are brought on either side of the question. Let the Egyptians have borrowed it from the Patriarchs, or the Patriarchs from the Egyptians, seeing God adopted, and even enjoined it upon pain of death, this is sufficient to make it be looked upon as of divine institution. It
(1) Judg. xi. 40. (m) Gen. xvii. 10, 11, 12. (n) Herodot. 1. ii. c. 104. Philo de Circumc. p. 624. () Gen. xvii. 14.