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From all these texts, therefore, now alleged from the Old and New Testament, it appears, the denomination or character of Hebrew, is the privilege of birth, not of choice, or acquisition, or accidental circumstance. All descendants of Abraham the Hebrew, by Isaac and Jacob, wherever they are born, and whatever language they use, are Hebrews. Nor can any other men be Hebrews, but only they who are descended from Abraham.
This then, is the first consideration, tending to determine who these Grecians were. To whom we now proceed.
Grecians, or Hellenists, as in the original. The word Grecians occurs thrice in our English version of the New Testament; here, and ch. ix. 29, and xi. 20. But it is well known to the learned, that in the second of these places the Alexandrian MS. has Greeks; which also is the reading in the third text, not only in the Alexandrian manuscript, but likewise in the Latin Vulgate, and several other versions. Whatever are the readings, it is apparent, that the same persons are not intended in the third and last text, as in the two former.
Various have been the sentiments of learned men concerning the Grecians, mentioned here, and in ch. ix. 29. The most prevailing opinions are these two. Some hereby understand Jews, born out of Judea, who spake Greek, and used the Greek version of the Old Testament in their synagogues. The other opinion is, that these Grecians were proselytes, or men of other nations, who had embraced the Jewish religion.
That the former are not here intended, has been, as I apprehend, sufficiently shown already. I therefore go on to support farther the opinion, that these Grecians were proselytes.
Which, I think, may be argued from the neglect they had met with. There arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected, Tарelewрevто, were overlooked, passed by, omitted, in the daily ministration. There was no regard had to them. There were no allowances or distributions made to them.
This may have been owing to two reasons, because they were few in number, and because they were despised. There may be some reason to think it was chiefly owing to
8 Seven different opinions have been taken writers. Vid. Fabr. Bib. Gr. 1. 4. c. vi. T. III. p. iv. p. 59, 60. et Wolf. Curæ ad Act. vi. 1. cerentur,' id est, negligerentur, et contemnerentur. Joach. Camer. in loc.
notice of by some learned 226. et Lux Evangelii, cap.
Παρεθεωρεντο.] * despi
The Jews of this time knew very well how to pay respect to proselytes of distinction, as they did to Helena, queen of the Adiabenes, and her son Izates. But for the most part native Jews, descendants of Abraham and the patriarchs, must have been preferred to proselytes. I cannot conceive any reason why any Jews should have been neglected, barely because they were born out of Judea, and used the Greek language. But proselytes might be overlooked, because they were reckoned much inferior to Israelites. Proselytes were admitted to eat the passover, and to communion with Israelites in all religious privileges. But they were far from enjoying equal civil privileges with the children of Israel. This must be apparent from what was before alleged from the thirty-fourth chapter of Jeremiah, and parallel places.
I beg leave to take notice of some other things relating to them from the Old Testament. When the Gibeonites had beguiled Joshua, and the elders, and their deceit was known, "all the congregation murmured against the princes:" however, as they had "made a league with them, to let them live, and the princes of the congregation had sworn to them," they would not falsify their oath. They gave them their lives, but took from them their lands, and made them slaves, or little better. As it is said, Josh. ix. 26, 27, "Joshua delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. And he made them hewers of wood, and drawers of water, for the congregation, and for the altar of the Lord."
And we are told," that Saul sought to slay them," or endeavoured to extirpate them, in "his zeal to the children of Israel and Judah," 2 Sam. xxi. 2. Which shows, that they were not beloved, and that this zeal of Saul was popular. But it was resented in the time of David.
This sort of men were employed in the laborious works for building the temple. 1 Chr. xxi. 2, “ And David comnanded to gather together the strangers that were in the land of Israel. And he set masons to hew wrought stones to build the house of God." And 2 Chr. ii. 17, 18, " And Solomon numbered all the strangers that were in the land of Israel, after the numbering, wherewith David his father had numbered them. And they were found an hundred and
See Ex. xii. 48, 49; Numb. ix. 14; and other places.
* Και συνήγαγε Σαλομων παντας τες ανδρας τες προσηλυτες, τες εν γη Ισραηλ. κ. λ. LXX.
Numeravit igitur Salomon omnes viros proselytos, qui erant in terrâ Israel. Hieron.
fifty thousand, and three thousand, and six hundred. And he set threescore and ten thousand of them to be bearers of burdens, and fourscore thousand to be hewers in the mountains, and three thousand and six hundred overseers, to set the people to work."
The overseers I suppose to have been Israelites, the rest strangers or proselytes; as they are called in the Greek version of the Seventy, and in St. Jerom's Latin version. Many of these strangers may have been remains of the Gibeonites; but I presume there were others besides.
Nethinims are mentioned, 1 Chr. ix. 2, "Now the first inhabitants that dwelt in their possessions, in their cities, were the Israelites, the Priests, the Levites, and the Nethinims." They, and Solomon's servants, are often mentioned in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. In the catalogue of the people that returned from Babylon it is said, Ezr. ii. 58, "All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two." So also Neh. vii. 60, and Ezr. viii. 20, "Also the Nethinims, whom David and the princes had appointed for the service of the Levites, two hundred and twenty."
These Nethinims had been given the Levites, to serve them. Afterwards Solomon appointed more for the like service. These must have been strangers or proselytes. It is not to be thought that David, or Solomon, or any king of Israel, with the elders, had power to give Israelites to the service of the Levites. As some Jews said to our Lord: "We be Abraham's seed, and never were in bondage to any man," John viii. 33. No, they were free-born, and high born, in comparison of other men; though they were little concerned for the freedom of which our Lord was speaking. Says Patrick upon 2 Chr. ix. 2, Ezra gives a good account of the Nethinims, ch. viii. 20, where he informs us, they were given by David to the Levites, (which is the original ' of their name,) as the Levites were given by God to help the priests; and therefore in all places they are mentioned with holy persons.'
I do not know whether these men may be called inferior clergy. They seem rather to have been servants to them. But however mean their original, or low and laborious their employment may have been; the people of Israel were indebted to them for their zeal for the house of God. Many of them readily returned from Babylon to Judea, and performed their part for upholding the worship of God at his temple.
As all the land of Canaan was given to the twelve tribes,
the children of Israel, and many of the regulations in the law of Moses were in their favour; it was foreseen, that strangers, who joined themselves to them, and came to sojourn among them, would lie under some disadvantages. God therefore, who wisely made those appointments of the law of Moses regarding the descendants of Jacob, in his great goodness, made provisions likewise for strangers, that they might not be abused.
The people of Israel, to whom the laws of Moses were delivered, are charged in this manner. Ex. xxii. 20, “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt." Comp. Lev. xix. 33, 34. and Ex. xxiii. 12, "Six days shalt thou do thy work, and on the seventh day thou shalt rest; that thy ox and thy ass may rest, and the son of thy handmaid, and the stranger may be refreshed:" see there ver. 9. Lev. xix. 9, 10, "And when ye reap the harvest of your land—thou shalt not gather the gleaning of thy harvest. And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard. Thou shalt leave them for the poor, and the stranger. I am the Lord your God." See also Lev. xxv. 5, 6, and 38; and Deut. xvi. 13, 14, "Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine. And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man servant, and thy maid servant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow that are in thy gates." And again, very particularly, Deut. xxvi. 11-13," And thou shalt rejoice in every good thing, which the Lord thy God hath given unto thee, and unto thy house, thou, and the Levite, and the stranger that is among you. When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thy increase and hast given it unto the Levite, and the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled. Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God; I have brought away the hallowed things out of my house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, according to thy commandment." These instances of kindness are strongly enforced, Deut. x. 17-19.
I shall add a text or two, somewhat different, though still to the like purpose. Deut. xii. 12, "And ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God, ye and your sons, and your daughters, and your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and the Levite that is within your gates. Forasmuch as he has no part, nor inheritance with you." And ver. 18,
"Thou must eat them before the Lord thy God, in the place which the Lord thy God shall choose, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, and the Levite that is within thy gates." See also Deut. x. 9.
By" stranger," and "stranger within thy gates, and the stranger that sojourneth with thee, [or] in thy land," I always understand proselytes, men circumcised according to the law of Moses; or, as they are now often called, "proselytes of the covenant, [or] of righteousness.' If the Levites are said " to have no inheritance," and are styled "Levites within thy gates," as they are in some texts just cited, though there were allotted to them cities, with their suburbs, out of the inheritance of the other tribes, as is manifest from Numb. xxxv. 1-8, and Josh. xiv. 1-5, all strangers, though circumcised, and admitted to full communion in all religious ordinances, may well be called "sojourners, and the strangers within thy gates."
Ouce more. As God in his laws, delivered to the children of Israel, was not unmindful of the stranger; so likewise does David remember them in his devotions. Ps. CXV. 9-13, "O Israel trust thou in the Lord. O house of Israel trust thou in the Lord. Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord. The Lord will bless the house of Israel: he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great," cxviii. 2—4, "Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever. Let them that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth for ever." Ps. cxxxv. 19, 20, "Bless the Lord, O house of Israel. Bless the Lord, O house of Aaron. Bless the Lord, O house of Levi. Ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.”
These men, who fear the Lord, mentioned after all the divisions of the people of Israel, I suppose to have been strangers, or proselytes. Hereby we are led to understand St. Paul's address in the synagogue at Antioch in Pisidia. Acts xiii. 16, "Men of Israel, and ye that fear God, give audience." And ver. 26, " Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent." Here, by them that feared God, must be meant proselytes. For that none were present, but such as were Jews, either by birth or religion, appears from ver. 42, and what there follows.
Proselytes are mentioned among the hearers of St. Peter's first sermon, preached at Jerusalem, after our Lord's ascension. Acts ii. 10. I suppose proselytes to be meant by Grecians here, ch. vi. 1, and ix. 29.