Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

days; and sent out the dove; and she returned not again to him any more.—13. And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14. And in the second month, on the seven and twentieth day of the month, was the earth perfectly dry.-15. And God nected with them those ideas; and ternal and external misery; he feels his though it appears that the later Jews connection with God as a forgiving father adopted from the Greeks these notions, strengthened, and receives the promise among many others. And yet we cannot of an easier existence; both the sin of deny that the olive-tree bore a sacred Adam, and the awful curse which it had character in the eyes of the early Israel- called forth, are to a certain degree reites; the holy oil used in the Tabernacle moved, or, at least, mitigated. We have and the Temple, was carefully prepared given a description of the olive-tree in of the fruit of the olive, and every other the commentary on Exodus, p. 370, to fuel for the sacred lamps was rigorously which we refer. That the olive-tree grows interdicted. It is, besides, a familiar fact, in Armenia is proved by unquestionable that the olive-tree grows even under the testimony. water; the greater was, therefore, the 15—22. The waters had been withdrawn propriety of introducing a branch of that within their banks and shores; the earth tree as the first indication of the abating had resumed, in many respects, its foriner floods; and it may be finally remarked, appearance; its surface was no more enthat according to a very ancient notion, tirely destitute of vegetable life; the trees the olive-tree was regarded as a type of put forth their foliage, and the valleys fertility; for Herodotus relates, that the their verdure; the earth was no longer to Epidaurians, at a time of barrenness bear the aspect of desolation and confusion; of their soil, were commanded by Apollo nowhere was the eye struck by awful indito erect statues to Damia and Auxesia cations of a sudden convulsive destruction; (that is, Demeter and Persephone), not the punishment had been suffered, and of brass or stone, but “ of the wood of mercy obliterated the traces of the crime. cultivated olive." The great amount of The globe was ready to receive again its time and care which the restoration of master, and to nourish him, and the num-' olive plantations requires after a hostile berless tribes of the animal creation. invasion, or agricultural neglect, is stated On the command of God, Noah and his among the causes of its selection as an family left the ark, together with all the emblem of peace. The earth had been living beings which had been preserved destroyed; desolation prevailed through- by him to secure new tribes of occupants out the globe as a consequence of the of the air, the fields, and the forests. iniquity of inan; what messenger of re- All the species of animals were restored turning happiness could be more appro• to the earth; "every beast, every creeping priate than a dove, the lovely type of thing, and every fowl" left the ark, that purity and atonement through the spirit none of the creatures which were once of God, offering an olive-leaf, the symbol formed by the Divine will, might be wantof the renewed fruitfulness of the earth? ing; the deluge was not to interrupt the In this one feature alone we see the main course of universal history; all the whole end of the fearful visitation of the

generations, from the beginning to the deluge, the relief of man from his in- latest ages, were to be connected by one

spoke to Noah, saying, 16. Go out of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. 17. Bring out with thee every living creature that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every reptile that creepeth upon the earth; that they may increase abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. 18. And Noah went out, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with hin:

unbroken chain: the tree of time was human heart are too strong to withstand temporarily stripped of its branches and the temptation (ver. 21): therefore, these leaves; but its stem was neither felled nor sacrifices partook, likewise, of the chainjured; it was full of its native strength, racter of sin-offerings. They were, then, and destined soon to bloom again in all its offered in that most sacred condition of former richness and beauty. But yet, a mind, inexplicably uniting joy and fear, new order of things was to begin; there- elevation of the soul and contrition of the fore, God again blessed the animals with heart, noble self-consciousness and tremthe promise of fruitfulness, dusiring them bling humility. The strength and the to spread on the earth, which He delights weakness of the human heart are never so to see replete with life, and to echo with wonderfully blended; man sees the light the sound of joy. The renewal of the and the shadow of his nature; he attempts dominion of man over nature was reserved the upward flight, but is reminded of his to a still more solemn moment. For, the limits. And God accepted the offering of pious Noah, who was deeply impressed Noah; " He smelled the sweet odour"; with the miracle of his deliverance in the and was gratified. Will any one repeat midst of the ruin of the globe, felt the ir- the old objection, that such expressions of resistible desire of manifesting his grati- external gratification are unworthy of the tude to the Lord of life and death. He built, Deity? If they were of a material or senand consecrated to His name, an altar, and suous character, then they would, indeed, sacrificed upon it burnt-offerings “of every be used nowhere with greater impropriety clean beast, and every clean fowl.” A more than in this most solemn passaye, which magnificent animal offering was never be- forms the connecting link between the fore nor after brought to God. The whole world of Adam and that of Noah. But creation contributed to it whatever species they are far from implying such perwas acceptable to Him.-When Noah left verse notions. Their primary meaning the ark, he found that the variety of the might, indeed, have been tinctured by the animal creatures was in no way smaller superstition of the time to which their than when he had entered it; they were origin belongs. But, at the period of the preserved by the love and wisdom of God; Pentateuch, they had lost every idolatrous and they had even been blessed anew to element which might formerly have atspread and to multiply; he felt, with all tached to them. The refinement of the the intensity of a susceptible mind, the language had kept, in general, pace with overwbelming debt which he owed to God. the intellectual and moral progress of the His sacrifices were, therefore, essentially nation; but not always were the words thank-offerings. But he was too clearly altered when the ideas which they express aware of his own unworthiness of those had undergone a change; they assumed infinite benefits; he knew, that the hand gradually, and almost imperceptibly, a of destruction had smitten his fellow-men nobler and more spiritual meaning; they on account of their iniquity; and he was were not brought into disuse, but accomconscious that the evil propensities of the modated to the new notions; they were

19. Every beast, every reptile, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their families, went out of the ark.--20. And Noah built an altar to the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21. And the Lord smelled the sweet odour; and the Lord said in His

not replaced by other words, but filled the chaos of matter into order and harmony; with another meaning. A misunder- which fills and animates His prophets, and standing was the less possible, the deeper which revives the despondency of an err. the purer ideas had penetrated into the ing heart, or the dry bones of a sunken heart of the people. Among the many

nation. Nor did the New Testament phrases which have thus been internally reject that phrase, even in reference to its metamorphosed, that which occurs in our most sacred idea; for, it says: “Christ text is one of the most striking instances. has given himself for us as an offering The Hebrews might certainly, in the time and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling of their physical and mental degradation, savour" (Ephes. v. 2). Thus, the Divine have shared the universal superstition of presence graciously accepted the grand the heathen world, that the deities “smell sacrifice of Noah; He saw with delight the the sweet odour” of the sacrifices, and piety of the only family which had escaped find their delight in it. But when the the universal calamity; and Hedetermined multitude of gods gave way, in their never again to expose the earth to so fearconvictions, to the One invisible and ful a destruction, but to be mindful of incorporeal God, who includes them all, the weakness of the human heart, which, the “sweet odour” received a different though capable of godlike purity, falls an meaning; it was used as perfectly iden- easy prey to the numberless allurements tical in meaning with delight or pleasure ; that surround it. He received the sinthis is plain beyond controversy from se- offering of Noah as an atonement for the veral later passages. The natural vigour wickedness of the former generations; the of the language applied easily external sin of man was no more to be measured after functions of the senses to abstract notions the test of justice, but after that of mercy. and to operations of the mind. It would God had, during several centuries, judged be bold, indeed, to assert, that the Penta- him after his innate Divine attributes; teuch which enforces, with all the energy He now intended to view him with due reof which language is capable, the incor- gard to his human imperfections; He was poreality and spirituality of God, should aware, that though the spirit is willing, attribute to Him qualities of the grossest the flesh is weak. God proclaimed, that and most sensuous nature; the theology of man cannot gain salvation by his own the Pentateuch forms a consistent system righteousness, but by Divine mercy. By in which one part cannot be in direct op- this new and all.important doctrine, the position with another; but the nature of love of God shines in higher splendour; God is the foundation of the whole system; but man sinks into deeper dependence; we cannot doubt the one without destroy- he lives henceforth not in virtue of his ing the other. The “sweet odour" of the own moral excellence, but in consequence incense or the burnt sacrifices was the spirit of Divine favour. The intellectual emiof God which hovered round the offerings, nence which man had attained by partakas a messenger of rest and peace, and which ing of the fruit of knowledge, was far was hoped to be won or conciliated by the from securing to hinı “ to be like God”; humble piety which had prompted the he might, with his reason, penetrate into gift. It is the spirit of God which brought the mysteries of creation, but his heart is

heart: I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the cogitation of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again smite any more every living being, as I have done. 22. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

feeble and insufficient, and requires the shall duly alternate with harvest, cold with merciful assistance of God. However, heat, summer with winter, and day with this very weakness was destined in fu- night. It is evident, that these words exture to form man's most powerful pro- press merely the general idea of the future tection. For God proclaimed, that al- preservation of a regular order in nature; though He does not eradicate sin from they do not exactly enumerate all the the heart of man, He regards it not with usual changes which the inhabitants of the severity of a judge, who demands our planet experience; they do not even perfect rectitude, but with the love of a distinctly specify the four seasons of the father, who indulgently overlooks many year; and still less six parts, as the Peroffences springing from innate weakness. sian and Hindoo legends count; for, sumThe deluge had, thus, been necessary, it mer and winter only are clearly mentioned, was indispensable to serve an important and although the "seedtime” might corend in the government of the moral world; respond with autumn, the “harvest" is and, though God regretted that it was certainly not the spring, but the summer. necessary, He did not “repent” having Hereto are joined the general terms of inflicted it. The fall ended with a curse “cold and heat," and, in order to complete on the earth, the deluge with the cheering the picture of regular succession,“ day and prospect, that it should no more suffer for night” are added, from which words we are, the sin of man (ver. 21); and if, later, therefore, not justified in inferring, that, in Sodom and Gomorrah were converted into the author's opinion, during the year of dreary deserts, and Palestine was menaced the flood, the light of the sun was either with fearful desolation for the iniquity of entirely or generally invisible. The year its inhabitants, these visitations did not is, in western Asia, indeed, composed only befall the whole globe, but only certain of two markedly different seasons; the limited parts or districts.

autumn, or rainy season, belongs to the As long as the earth stands, that is, in winter; and the spring, or the months of eternity, the regular change of the seasons the ripening corn, is reckoned with the shall not again be suspended, as had been summer (see notes on xxvii. 27–29). the case in the year of the deluge; seedtime

SCIENCE AND THE NOACHIAN DELUGE.

SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE ON CHAPTERS VI. TO VIII. We have completed the verbal explanation of the deluge, and endeavoured to elucidate the single facts and ideas which it contains; but this subject is too important not to claim a general consideration as a whole, and too complicated not to require it. Religion, history, and natural philosophy, are equally interested in it; but they are here not allies, but apparently rivals; they seem not to support, but to contradict each other; they attempt individually to usurp the victory over the rest; and there is scarcely a reflecting mind that has not taken part in favour of the one or the other of the claimants. It is our anxious desire to enable our readers to form an independent opinion. We shall allow each of the three parties to state its own case; we ask but two things, attention to the facts, and impartiality in the decision. We introduce, therefore,

I.—THE HEATHEN TRADITIONS CONCERNING A UNIVERSAL FLOOD.

1. CHALDEAN TRADITION. — The representative of the tenth generation after the first man was Xisuthrus (the son of Otiartes or Ardates), a pious and wise monarch. The god Chronos (or Belus) revealed to him that continual rains, commencing on a certain day, the fifteenth of the month Dæsius, would cause a general deluge, by which mankind would be destroyed. On the command of the deity, Xisuthras built an immense ship, 3,000 feet in length, and 1,200 feet in breadth; ascended it with his family, his friends, and every species of quadrupeds, birds, and reptiles, after having loaded it with every possible provision, and sailed towards Armenia. When the rain ceased, he sent out birds to satisfy himself about the condition of the earth. They returned twice, but the second time they had mud on their feet; and the third time they returned to him no more. Xisuthrus, who had by this time grounded upon the side of some Armenian mountain, left the ship, accompanied only by his wife, his daughter, and the pilot. They erected an altar, and offered sacrifices to the gods; but were soon raised to heaven, on account of their exemplary piety. Those who had remained in the ship now left it, also, with many lamentations; but they believed they heard the voice of Xisuthrus admonishing them to persevere in the fear of the gods; after which they settled again in Babylon, from whence they had started, and became the ancestors of a new human population. The ship was thought to be preserved in the highland of Armenia, in the mountain of the Cordyæans; and pieces of bitumen and timber, ostensibly taken from it, were, in later times, used chiefly as amulets. We here select those features principally which offer a resemblance to the Biblical narrative; but the analogies themselves are so obvious, that the attentive reader will at once make in his mind instructive comparisons.

2. Indian Tradition. The seventh king of the Hindoos was Satyavrata, who reigned in Dravira, a country washed by the waves of the sea. During his reign, an evil demon (Hayagriva) furtirely appropriated to himself the holy books (Vedas), which the first Manu had received from Brahman; and the consequence was, that the whole human race sank into a fearful degeneracy, with the exception of the seven saints and the virtuous king, Satyavrata. The divine spirit, Vishnu, once appeared to him in the shape of a fish, and addressed him thus: “ In seven days, all the creatures which have offended against me shall be destroyed by a deluge; thou alone shalt be saved in a capacious vessel, miraculously constructed. Take, therefore, all kinds of useful herbs, and of esculent grain for food, and one pair of each animal; take also the seven holy men with thee, and your wives. Go into the ark without fear; then thou shalt see god face to face, and all thy questions shall be answered.” After seven days, incessant torrents of rain descended, and the ocean gave forth its waves beyond the wonted shores. Satyavrata, trembling for his imminent destruction, yet piously confiding in the promises of the god, and meditating on his attributes, saw a huge boat floating to the shore on the waters. He entered it with the saints, after having executed the divine instructions. Vishnu himself appeared, in the shape of a vast horned fish, and tied the vessel with a great sea-serpent, as with a cable, to his huge horn. He drew it for many years, and landed it, at last, on the highest peak of Mount Himavân. The flood ceased; Vishnu slew the demon, and received the Vedas back; instructed Satyavrata in all heavenly sciences, and appointed him the seventh Manu, under the name of Vaivaswata. From this Manu, the second population of the earth descended in a supernatural manner, and hence man is called manudsha (born of Manu, Mensch).

« ElőzőTovább »