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thence, he lighted on Jehonadab, the son of Rechab, coming to meet him, and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thy heart right, as my heart is with thy heart; and Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand : And he gave him his hand, and he took him up unto him into the chariot.” Another striking instance is quoted by Calmet from Ockley's history of the Saracens. Telha, just before he died, asked one of Ali's men if he belonged to the emperor of the faithful; and being informed that he did, “ Give me then, said he, your hand, that I may put mine in it, and by this action renew the oath of fidelity which I have already made to Ali.”s
It was very common among the orientals to swear by the head or the life of the king: Joseph, improperly yielding to the fashion of the country, sware by the life of Pharaoh ; and this oath is still used in various regions of the east. According to Mr. Hanway, the most sacred oath among the Persians is by the head of the king :“ and Thevenot asserts, that to swear by the king's head is, in Persia, more authentic, and of greater credit, than if they swore by all that is most sacred in heaven and upon earth." In the time of our Lord, it seems to have been a common practice among the Jews to swear by this form; for, said he to the multitudes, “ Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.”
To swear and vow by Jerúsalem, was another form in use among the Jews : “ As the altar, as the temple, as Jerusalem,” are expressions frequently to be met with in their writings. In the Gemara, it is, “ He that says as Jerusalem, does not say any thing till he has made his vow concerning a thing which is offered up in Jerusalem." That which was offered up in Jerusalem, was the corban, or gift on the altar, and was one of those oaths which, in our Saviour's time, the scribes and Pharisees reckoned most sacred. If any swore by the altar, it was nothing ; but if any swore by the oblation on the altar, he was bound to perform it. The law of God, according to those corrupt teachers, lost its power to command obedience, when the oath by corban happened to be in opposition. Thus, if a man swore by corban that he would not help or relieve his parents, they taught that he was not bound by the divine law. This is the express doctrine of their talmud. Every one ought to honour his father and his mother, except he has vowed the contrary ; and it is well known that the Jews often did, by solemn vows and oaths, bind themselves never to do good to the persons whom they named. An execration, or conditional curse, was also annexed to their oaths, which was sometimes expressed in this manner : - If I do not so, then the Lord do so to me, and more also.” Sometimes the execration is understood, as in the declaration of Abraham to the king of Sodom: “ I have sworn, if I take from a thread to a shoe-latchet;" supply the execration, “ then let the Lord do so to me, and more also.” The Psalmist uses the same elliptical phrase: “ If they shall enter into my rest ;" that is, “I have sworn that they shall not enter into my rest.” These remarks enable us to give a clear and satisfactory exposition of that difficult passage in the gospel of Matthew : “But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother it is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me." By the oath corban, if thou receive any benefit from me, then let God do so to me, and more also ; or more simply, I swear by corban, (the gift of the altar) that thou shalt have no benefit from me. This exposition is equally agreeable to the scope of the passage, and to their form of swearing ; and shews, in a very plain and convincing way, how the Jews made void the law of God by their traditions. The divine command is, “ Honour thy father and thy mother;" help them in their need, relieve them in their want; but the scribes and Pharisees said, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, that asked his assistance, By corban thou shalt receive no gift from me, he was free from the commanding power of the law.
* 2 Kings x, 15.
s Calmet, vol. iii. + Malcom's Hist. of Persia, vol. ii, p. 632. u Trav. vol. i, p. 313.
Trav. part ii, p. 97.
The ancients commonly ratified their federal engagements by the blood of a sacrifice; when they cut the viction into two parts, placing each half upon an altar, and causing the contracting parties to pass between the pieces, to intimate that so should they be cut asunder, who violated the agreement. In this manner was the covenant ratified, which God made with Abram and his family. And he said unto him, 66 Take me an heifer of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtle dove and a young pigeon. And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another, but the birds divided he not --- And it came to pass that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp, that passed between those pieces. Such were the awful symbols by which the Supreme Being was graciously pleased to pledge his veracity, for the
Gen. xvi, 9; and x, 17. Matth. xv,
accomplishment of his promise to the patriarch and his posterity: “ In the same day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” The same awful ceremonies were observed by the people of Israel at the renovation of this covenant; for the prophet Jeremiah threatened, in the name of the Lord, “ I will give the men who have transgressed my covenant, which have not performed the words of the covenant which they had made before me, when they cut the calf in twain, and passed between the parts thereof. The princes of Judah, and the princes of Jerusalem, the eunuchs and the priests, and all the people of the land, which passed between the parts of the calf.”'y From this rite proceeded the phrase so common in the Old Testament Scriptures, “ to cut a covenant.” Several traces of this mode of ratifying a covenant, have been discovered in the customs of different nations, in all probability the remains of that ancient and divinely appointed observance recorded in the history of Abraham. Homer has the expression, of which the reference cannot easily be mistaken, OgXice tiço Tauortes ;? “ having cut faithful oaths ;” which Eustathius explains, by saying, “ They were oaths relating to important matters, and were made by the division of the victim.” Virgil alludes to the same practice in these lines ;
6. Jovis ante aras paterasque tenentes Stabant et cæsa jungebant foedera porca.” Æn. lib. ii, 1. 640. “ The princes, sheathed in armour, and with the sacred goblets in their hands, stood before the altars of Jove,
* Jer. xxxiv, 18. 2 IL lib. ii, l. 124 ; and lib. iii, L 295. Æn. lib. xii, 1. 292.
and having sacrificed a sow, concluded a league.” And Agamemnon, to confirm his oath to Achilles, divided a victim in the midst, placed the pieces opposite to each other, and holding his sword reeking with the blood of the victim, passed between the separated pieces.
To eat of the same bread has been reckoned in every age a sure pledge of inviolable friendship. Pythagoras commanded his disciples not to break bread, because, say they, the bond of friendship is not to be broken ; and all friends should assemble round the same cake. A cake of bread, observes Curtius, was the most sacred pledge of amity among the Macedonians. Nothing was reckoned baser, in the east, than to offer violence to those, at whose table they had been entertained. Euripides accordingly makes Hecuba bitterly inveigh against Polymnestor, the murderer of her son, that he had often taken his seat at the same table with her, and enjoyed the rites of hospitality among her friends :
Κοινης τραπεζης πολλακις τυχων εμοι
Ξενιεις των αριθμω πρωτα των εμων φιλων. And Æschines, in his oration against Demosthenes, reproaches him especially because he had accused him, though they had eaten at the same table and joined in the same sacred ceremonies. In perfect harmony with these views and feelings, which seem to have been derived from a very remote antiquity, the holy Psalmist complains of Ahitophel : “ Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me."d And a greater than David, in
Calmet, vol. iii. Iliad. lib. xix, l. 260.
αρτον μη καταγνυται ; bread not to be broken.
Psa. xli, 9.