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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary
the appropriate denomination of the descendants of Judah, which soon included under it the Benjamites, who joined themselves to the tribe of Judah, on the revolt of the other ten tribes from the house of David. After the Babylonish captivity, when many individuals of these ten tribes returned with the men of Judah and Benjamin to rebuild Jerusalem, the term JEWS included them also, or rather was then extended to all the descendants of Israel who retained the Jewish religion, whether they belonged to the two or to the ten tribes, whether they returned into Judea or not. Hence, not only all the Israelites of future times have been called Jews, but all the descendants of Jacob, from the earliest times, are frequently so called by us at present, and we speak even of their original dispensation as the Jewish dispensation. The history of this singular people is recorded in the sacred books of the Old Testament; and in place of epitomizing the accounts of the sacred writers, it will be more useful to fill up the chasm between the close of the historical books there contained, and the coming of our Lord.
When the kingdom of Judah had been seventy years in captivity, and the period of their affliction was completed, Cyrus, (B.C. 536,) under whom were united the kingdoms of Persia, Media, and Babylon, issued a decree, permitting all the Jews to return to their own land, and to rebuild their temple at Jerusalem. This decree had been expressly foretold by the Prophet Isaiah, who spoke of Cyrus by name, above a hundred years before his birth, as the deliverer of God's chosen people from their predicted captivity. Though the decree issued by Cyrus was general, a part only of the nation took advantage of it. The number of persons who returned at this time was forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty, and seven thousand three hundred and thirty-seven servants. They were conducted by Zerubbabel and Joshua. Zerubbabel, frequently called in Scripture Shashbazzar, was the grandson of Jeconias, and consequently descended from David. He was called "the prince of Judah," and was appointed their governor by Cyrus, and with his permission carried back a part of the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out the temple of Jerusalem. The rest of the treasures of the temple were carried thither afterward by Ezra. Joshua was the son of Josedec, the high priest, and grandson of Seraiah, who was high priest when the temple was destroyed. Darius, the successor of Cyrus, confirmed this decree, and favoured the reestablishment of the people. But it was in the reign of Artaxerxes Longimanus, called in Scripture Ahasuerus, that Ezra obtained his commission, and was made governor of the Jews in their own land, which government he held thirteen years: then Nehemiah was appointed with fresh powers, probably through the interest of Queen Esther; and Ezra applied himself solely to correcting the canon of the Scriptures, and restoring and providing for the continuance of the worship of God in its original purity. The first care of the Jews, after their arrival in Judea, was to build an altar for burnt-offerings to God: they then collected materials for rebuilding the temple; and all necessary preparations being made, in the beginning of the second year after their return under Zerubbabel, they began to build it upon the old foundations. The Samaritans, affirming that they worshipped the God of Israel, offered to assist the Jews; but their assistance being refused, they did all in their power to impede the work; and hence originated that enmity which ever after subsisted between the Jews and Samaritans. The temple, after a variety of obstructions and delays, was finished and dedicated, in the seventh year of King Darius, B.C. 515, and twenty years after it was begun. Though this second temple, or, as it is sometimes called, the temple of Zerubbabel, who was at that time governor of the Jews, was of the same size and dimensions as the first, or Solomon's temple, yet it was very inferior to it in splendour and magnificence; and the ark of the covenant, the Shechinah, the holy fire upon the altar, the Urim and Thummim, and the spirit of prophecy, were all wanting to this temple of the remnant of the people. At the feast of the dedication, offerings were made for the twelve tribes of Israel, which seems to indicate that some of all the tribes returned from captivity; but by far the greater number were of the tribe of Judah, and therefore from this period the Israelites were generally called Judaei or Jews, and their country Judea. Many, at their own desire, remained in those provinces where they had been placed by the kings of Assyria and Babylon. The settlement of the people, "after their old estate," according to the word of the Lord, together with the arrangement of all civil and ecclesiastical matters, and the building of the walls of Jerusalem, were completed by Ezra and Nehemiah. But we soon after find Malachi, the last of the prophets under the Old Testament, reproving both priests and people very severely, not for idolatry, but for their scandalous lives and gross corruptions.
The Scriptural history ends at this period, B.C. 430; and we must have recourse to uninspired writings, principally to the books of the Maccabees, and to Josephus, for the remaining particulars of the Jewish history, to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Judea continued subject to the kings of Persia about two hundred years; but it does not appear that it had a separate governor after Nehemiah. From his time it was included in the jurisdiction of the governor of Syria, and under him the high priest had the chief authority. When Alexander the Great was preparing to besiege Tyre, he sent to Jaddua, the high priest at Jerusalem, to supply him with that quantity of provisions which he was accustomed to send to Persia. Jaddua refused, upon the ground of his oath of fidelity to the king of Persia. This refusal irritated Alexander; and when he had taken Tyre, he marched toward Jerusalem to revenge himself upon the Jews. Jaddua had notice of his approach, and, by the direction of God, went out of the city to meet him, dressed in his pontifical robes and attended by the Levites in white garments. Alexander, visibly struck with this solemn appearance, immediately laid aside his hostile intentions, advanced toward the high priest, embraced him, and paid adoration to the name of God, which was inscribed upon the frontlet of his mitre: he afterward went into the city with the high priest, and offered sacrifices in the temple to the God of the Jews. This sudden change in the disposition of Alexander excited no small astonishment among his followers; and when his favourite Parmenio inquired of him the cause, he answered, that it was occasioned by the recollection of a remarkable dream he had in Macedonia, in which a person, dressed precisely like the Jewish high priest, had encouraged him to undertake the conquest of Persia, and had promised him success: he therefore adored the name of that God by whose direction he believed he acted, and showed kindness to his people. It is also said, that while he was at Jerusalem the prophecies of Daniel were pointed out to him, which foretold that "the king of Grecia" should conquer Persia, Daniel 8:21 . Before he left Jerusalem he granted the Jews the same free enjoyment of their laws and their religion, and exemption from tribute every sabbatical year, which they had been allowed by the kings of Persia; and when he built Alexandria, he placed a great number of Jews there, and granted them many favours and immunities. Whether any Jews settled in Europe so early as while the nation was subject to the Macedonian empire, is not known; but it is believed that they began to Hellenize about this time. The Greek tongue became more common among them, and Grecian manners and opinions were soon introduced. See .
At the death of Alexander, (B.C. 323,) in the division of his empire among his generals, Judea fell to the share of Laomedon. But Ptolemy Soter, son of Lagus, king of Egypt, soon after made himself master of it by a stratagem: he entered Jerusalem on a Sabbath day, under pretence of offering sacrifice, and took possession of the city without resistance from the Jews, who did not on this occasion dare to transgress their law by fighting on a Sabbath day. Ptolemy carried many thousands captive into Egypt, both Jews and Samaritans, and settled them there: he afterward treated them with kindness, on account of their acknowledged fidelity to their engagements, particularly in their conduct toward Darius, king of Persia; and he granted them equal privileges with the Macedonians themselves at Alexandria. Ptolemy Philadelphus is said to have given the Jews who were captives in Egypt their liberty, to the number of a hundred and twenty thousand. He commanded the Jewish Scriptures to be translated into the Greek language, which translation is called the Septuagint. ( See. ) After the Jewish nation had been tributary to the kings of Egypt for about a hundred years, it became subject to the kings of Syria. They divided the land, which now began to be called Palestine, into five provinces, three of which were on the west side of the Jordan, namely, Galilee, Samaria, and Judea, and two on the east side, namely, Trachonitis and Persia; but they suffered them to be governed by their own laws, under the high priest and council of the nation. Seleucus Nicanor gave them the right of citizens in the cities which he built in Asia Minor and Coelo-Syria, and even in Antioch, his capital, with privileges, which they continued to enjoy under the Romans. Antiochus the Great granted considerable favours and immunities to the city of Jerusalem; and, to secure Lydia and Phrygia, he established colonies of Jews in those provinces. In the series of wars which took place between the kings of Syria and Egypt, Judea, being situated between those two countries, was, in a greater or less degree, affected by all the revolutions which they experienced, and was frequently the scene of bloody and destructive battles. The evils to which the Jews were exposed from these foreign powers were considerably aggravated by the corruption and misconduct of their own high priests, and other persons of distinction among them. To this corruption and misconduct, and to the increasing wickedness of the people, their sufferings ought indeed to be attributed, according to the express declarations of God by the mouth of his prophets. It is certain that about this time a considerable part of the nation was become much attached to Grecian manners and customs, though they continued perfectly free from the sin of idolatry. Near Jerusalem places were appropriated to gymnastic exercises; and the people were led by Jason, who had obtained the high priesthood from Antiochus Epiphanes by the most dishonourable means, to neglect the temple worship, and the observance of the law, in a far greater degree than, at any period since their return from the captivity. It pleased God to punish them for this defection, by the hand of the very person whom they particularly sought to please. Antiochus Epiphanes, irritated at having been prevented by the Jews from entering the holy place when he visited the temple, soon after made a popular commotion the pretence for the exercise of tyranny: he took the city, (B.C. 170,)
plundered the temple, and slew or enslaved great numbers of the inhabitants, with every circumstance of profanation and of cruelty which can be conceived. For three years and a half, the time predicted by Daniel, the daily sacrifice was taken away, the temple defiled and partly destroyed, the observance of the law prohibited under the most severe penalties, every copy burned which the agents of the tyrant could procure, and the people required to sacrifice to idols, under pain of the most agonizing death. Numerous as were the apostates, (for the previous corruption of manners had but ill prepared the nation for such a trial,) a remnant continued faithful; and the complicated miseries which the people endured under this cruel yoke excited a general impatience. At length the moment of deliverance arrived. Mattathias, a priest, (B.C. 167,) eminent for his piety and resolution, and the father of five sons, equally zealous for their religion, encouraged the people by his example and exhortations, "to stand up for the law:" and having soon collected an army of six thousand men, he eagerly undertook to free Judea from the oppression and persecution of the Syrians, and to restore the worship of the God of Israel; but being very old when he engaged in this important and arduous work, he did not live to see its completion. At his death, his son, Judas Maccabaeus, succeeded to the command of the army; and having defeated the Syrians in several engagements, he drove them out of Judea, and established his own authority in the country. His first care was to repair and purify the temple for the restoration of divine worship; and, to preserve the memory of this event, the Jews ordained a feast of eight days, called the feast of the dedication, to be yearly observed. Judas Maccabaeus was slain in battle, and his brother Jonathan succeeded him in the government. He was also made high priest, and from that time the Maccabaean princes continued to be high priests. Judas Maccabaeus and his brothers were so successful, by their valour and conduct, in asserting the liberty of their country, that in a few years they not only recovered its independence, but regained almost all the possessions of the twelve tribes, destroying at the same time the temple on Mount Gerizim, in Samaria. But they and their successors were almost always engaged in wars, in which, though generally victorious, they were sometimes defeated, and their country for a short time oppressed. Aristobulus was the first of the Maccabees who assumed the name of king. About forty-two years after, a contest arising between the two brothers, Hyrcanus and Aristobulus, the sons of Alexander Jaddaeus, relative to the succession of the crown, both parties applied to the Romans for their support and assistance. Scaurus, the Roman general, suffered himself to be bribed by Aristobulus, and placed him on the throne, Not long after, Pompey returned from the east into Syria, and both the brothers applied to him for protection, and pleaded their cause before him, (B.C. 63.) Pompey considered this as a favourable opportunity for reducing Palestine under the power of the Romans, to which the neighbouring nations had already submitted; and therefore, without deciding the points in dispute between the two brothers, he marched his army into Judea, and, after some pretended negotiation with Aristobulus and his party, besieged and took possession of Jerusalem. He appointed Hyrcanus high priest, but would not allow him to take the title of king; he gave him, however, the specious name of prince, with very limited authority. Pompey did not take away the holy utensils or treasures of the temple, but he made Judea subject and tributary to the Romans; and Crassus, about nine years after, plundered the temple of every thing valuable belonging to it. Julius Caesar confirmed Hyrcanus in the pontificate, and granted fresh privileges to the Jews; but about four years after the death of Julius Caesar, Antigonus, the son of Aristobulus, with the assistance of the Parthians, while the empire of Rome was in an unsettled state, deposed his uncle Hyrcanus, (B.C. 41,) seized the government, and assumed the title of king.
Herod, by birth an Idumean, but of the Jewish religion, whose father, Antipater, as well as himself, had enjoyed considerable posts of honour and trust under Hyrcanus, immediately set out for Rome, and prevailed upon the senate, through the interest of Antony and Augustus, to appoint him king of Judea. Armed with this authority, he returned, and began hostilities against Antigonus. About three years after, he took Jerusalem, and put an end to the government of the Maccabees or Asmonaeans, after it had lasted nearly a hundred and thirty years. Antigonus was sent prisoner to Rome, and was there put to death by Antony. Herod married Mariamne, who lived to be the only representative of the Asmonaean family, and afterward caused her to be publicly executed from motives of unfounded jealousy. Herod considerably enlarged the kingdom of Judea, but it continued tributary to the Romans; he greatly depressed the civil power of the high priesthood, and changed it from being hereditary and for life to an office granted and held at the pleasure of the monarch; and this sacred office was now often given to those who paid the highest price for it, without any regard to merit: he was an inexorable, cruel tyrant to his people, and even to his children, three of whom he put to death; a slave to his passions, and indifferent by what means he gratified his ambition; but to preserve the Jews in subjection, and to erect a lasting monument to his own name, he repaired the temple of Jerusalem at a vast expense, and added greatly to its magnificence.
At this time there was a confident expectation of the Messiah among the Jews; and indeed, a general idea prevailed among the Heathen, also, that some extraordinary conqueror or deliverer would soon appear in Judea. In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Herod, while Augustus was emperor of Rome, the Saviour of mankind was born of the virgin Mary, of the lineage of David, in the city of Bethlehem of Judea, according to the word of prophecy. Herod, misled by the opinion, which was then common among the Jews, that the Messiah was to appear as the temporal prince, and judging from the inquiries of the wise men of the east, that the child was actually born, sent to Bethlehem, and ordered that all the children of two years old and under should be put to death, with the hope of destroying one whom he considered as the rival of himself, or at least of his family. He was soon after smitten with a most loathsome and tormenting disease, and died, a signal example of divine justice, about a year and a quarter after the birth of our Saviour, and in the thirty-seventh year of his reign, computing from the time he was declared king by the Romans. See.
Herod made his will not long before his death, but left the final disposal of his dominions to Augustus. The emperor ratified this will in all its material points, and suffered the countries over which Herod had reigned to be divided among his three sons. Archelaus succeeded to the largest share, namely, to Judea Propria, Samaria, and Idumea. Herod Antipas, called Herod the Tetrarch, who afterward beheaded John the Baptist, succeeded to Galilee and Peraea; and Philip, to Trachonitis, and to the neighbouring region of Iturea. The sons of Herod the Great were not suffered to take the title of king: they were only called ethnarchs or tetrarchs. Beside the countries already mentioned, Abilene, which had belonged to Herod during the latter part of his life, and of which Lysanias is mentioned in Luke 3:1 , as tetrarch, and some cities were given to Salome, the sister of Herod the Great, (A.D. 7.) Archelaus acted with great cruelty and injustice; and in the tenth year of his government, upon a regular complaint being made against him by the Jews, Augustus banished him to Vienne, in Gaul, where he died.
After the banishment of Archelaus, Augustus sent Publius Sulpitius Quirinus, who, according to the Greek way of writing that name, is by St. Luke called Cyrenius, president of Syria, to reduce the countries over which Archelaus had reigned, to the form of a Roman province; and appointed Coponius, a Roman of the equestrian order, to be governor, under the title of procurator of Judea, but subordinate to the president of Syria. The power of life and death was now taken out of the hands of the Jews, and taxes were from this time paid immediately to the Roman emperor. Justice was administered in the name and by the laws of Rome; though in what concerned their religion, their own laws, and the power of the high priest, and sanhedrim, or great council, were continued to them; and they were allowed to examine witnesses, and exercise an inferior jurisdiction in other causes, subject to the control of the Romans, to whom their tetrarchs or kings were also subject; and it may be remarked that, at this very period of time, our Saviour, who was now in the twelfth year of his age, being at Jerusalem with Joseph and Mary upon occasion of the passover, appeared first in the temple in his prophetic office, and in the business of his Father, on which he was sent, sitting among the doctors of the temple, and declaring the truth of God to them. After Coponius, Ambivius, Annius Rufus, Valerius Gratus, and Pontius Pilate, were successively procurators; and this was the species of government to which Judea and Samaria were subject during the ministry of our Saviour. Herod Antipas was still tetrarch of Galilee, and it was he to whom our Saviour was sent by Pontius Pilate. Lardner is of opinion that there was no procurator in Judea after Pontius Pilate, who was removed A.D. 36, but that it was governed for a few years by the presidents of Syria, who occasionally sent officers into Judea. Philip continued tetrarch of Trachonitis thirty-seven years, and died in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius. Caligula gave his tetrarchy to Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the great, with the title of king; and afterward he added the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, whom he deposed and banished after he had been tetrarch forty- three years. The Emperor Claudius gave him Judea, Samaria, the southern parts of Idumea, and Abilene; and thus at last the dominions of Herod Agrippa became nearly the same as those of his grandfather, Herod the Great. It was this Agrippa, called also Herod Agrippa, and by St. Luke Herod only, who put to death James, the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter. He died in the seventh year of his reign, and left a son called also Agrippa, then seventeen years old; and Claudius, thinking him too young to govern his father's extensive dominions, made Cuspus Fadus governor of Judea. Fadus was soon succeeded by Tiberius, and he was followed by Alexander Cumanus, Felix, and Festus; but Claudius afterward gave Trachonitis and Abilene to Agrippa, and Nero added a part of Galilee and some other cities. It was this younger Agrippa, who was also called king, before whom Paul pleaded at Caesarea, which was at that time the place of residence of the governor of Judea. Several of the Roman governors severely oppressed and persecuted the Jews; and at length, in the reign of Nero, and in the government of Florus, who had treated them with greater cruelty than any of his predecessors, they openly revolted from the Romans. Then began the Jewish war, which was terminated, after an obstinate defence and unparalleled sufferings on the part of the Jews, by the total destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem, by the overthrow of their civil and religious polity, and the reduction of the people to a state of the most abject slavery; for though, in the reign of Adrian, numbers of them collected together, in different parts of Judea, it is to be observed, they were then considered and treated as rebellious slaves; and these commotions were made a pretence for the general slaughter of those who were taken, and tended to complete the work of their dispersion into all countries under heaven. Since that time the Jews have no where subsisted as a nation.
2. JEWS, MODERN. The Jews divide the books of the Old Testament into three classes: the law, the prophets, and the hagiographa, or holy writings. They have counted not only the large and small sections, the verses and the words, but even the letters in some of the books; and they have likewise reckoned which is the middle letter of the Pentateuch, which is the middle clause of each book, and how often each letter of the alphabet occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures. Beside the Scriptures, the Jews pay great attention to the Targums, or Chaldee paraphrases of them. It seems probable that these were written either during the Babylonish captivity, or immediately afterward, when the Jews had forgotten their own language, and acquired the Chaldee of the Targums, at present received by the Jews. The most ancient are that of Onkelos on the law, and that of Jonathan Ben Uzziel on the prophets: the former is supposed to be of greater antiquity than the latter, and it approaches, in simplicity and purity of style, to the Chaldee of Daniel and Ezra. The Targum on the prophets is believed to have been written before the birth of Christ; and, though inferior in respect of style to the Targum of Onkelos, is much superior to any other Targum.
The Jews also regard with great veneration, what is called the Talmud. This work consists of two parts: the Mishna, which signifies a second law; and the Gemara, which means either a supplement or a commentary. The Jews suppose that God first dictated the text of the law to Moses, which he commanded to be put in writing, and which exists in the Pentateuch, and then gave him an explication of every thing comprehended in it, which he ordered to be committed to memory. Hence the former is called the written, and the latter the oral, law. These two laws were recited by Moses to Aaron four times, to his sons three times, to the seventy elders twice, and to the rest of the people once: after this, the repetition was renewed by Aaron, his two sons, and the seventy elders. The last month of Moses's life was spent, according to the Jews, in repeating and explaining the law to the people, and especially to Joshua, his successor. A prophet might suspend any law, or authorize the violation of any precept, except those against idolatry. If there was any difference of opinion respecting the meaning of any law or precept, it was determined by the majority. When Joshua died, all the interpretations he had received from Moses, as well as those made in his time, were transmitted to the elders: they conveyed them to the prophets, and by one prophet they were delivered to another. This law was only oral till the days of Rabbi Jehuda, who, perceiving that the students of the law were gradually decreasing, and that the Jews were dispersed over the face of the earth, collected all the traditions, arranged them under distinct heads, and formed them into a methodical code of traditional law; thus the Mishna was formed. It is written in a concise style, chiefly in the form of aphorisms, which admit of a variety of interpretations. On this account, a Gemara or commentary was written by a president of a school in Palestine, which, together with the Mishna, forms the Jerusalem Talmud. The Jews in Chaldea, however, not being satisfied with this Gemara, one of their rabbies compiled another; which, together with the Mishna, forms the Babylonian Talmud.
One of the principal branches of modern Judaism is the cabala, the study of which is regarded as the sublimest of all sciences. By the cabala, the Jews mean those mystical interpretations of the Scripture, and metaphysical speculations concerning the Deity, angels, &c, which they regard as having been handed down by a secret tradition from the earliest ages. In the eleventh century, the famous Rabbi Maimonides drew up a summary of the doctrines of Judaism, which every Jew is required to believe, on pain of excommunication in this world, and condemnation in the next. This summary consists of thirteen articles, which he calls foundations or roots of the faith. The articles are as follows:
1. That God is the Creater and active Supporter of all things.
2. That God is one, and eternally unchangeable.
3. That God is incorporeal, and cannot have any material properties.
4. That God must eternally exist.
5. That God alone is to be worshipped.
6. That whatever is taught by the prophets is true.
7. That Moses is the head and father of all contemporary doctors, and of all those who lived before or shall live after him.
8. That the law was given by Moses.
9. That the law shall always exist, and never be altered.
10. That God knows all the thoughts and actions of men.
11. That God will reward the observance, and punish the breach, of the laws.
12. That the Messiah is to come, though he tarry a long time.
13. That there shall be a resurrection of the dead, when God shall think fit.
The Jewish religion is, perhaps, more a religion of minute and trifling rites and ceremonies than even the Catholic religion. The minutest circumstances in dressing and undressing, washing and wiping the face and hands, and other necessary actions of common and daily life, are enjoined by the rabbies to be performed exactly according to the prescribed regulations. Their prayers also are numerous, and some of them relate to the most trifling circumstances. Those esteemed the most solemn and imortant are called Shemoneh Esreh or the eighteen prayers, though they actually consist of nineteen, the last having been added against heretics and apostates. They are enjoined to be said by all Jews above the age of thirteen, wherever they may be, three times a day. The members of the synagogue are required to repeat at least a hundred benedictions every day. A son who survives his father is enjoined to attend the nocturnal service in the synagogue every evening for a year, and to repeat the Kodesh, in order that his father may be delivered from hell. This service may be suspended by any person going up to the desk and closing the book. This is not unfrequently done in case of quarrels; and the prayers cannot be renewed till a reconciliation takes place.
Nothing is to be undertaken on Friday which cannot be finished before the evening. In the afternoon they wash and clean themselves, trim their hair, and pare their nails. Every Jew, of whatever rank, must assist in the preparation for the Sabbath. Two loaves, baked on the Friday, are set on a table. This is done in memory of the manna, of which a double portion fell on the sixth day of the week. The table remains spread all the Sabbath. Before the sun is set the candles are to be lighted; one, at least, with seven wicks, in allusion to the number of days in a week, is to be lighted in each house. The Talmudical directions respecting the wicks and oil form part of the Sabbath evening service; they are most ridiculously and childishly minute. The lesson appointed for the Sabbath is divided into seven parts, and read to seven persons at the altar. The first called up to hear it is a descendant of Aaron, the second of Levi, the third an Israelite of any tribe; the same order is then repeated: the seventh may be of any tribe. The portion read from the law is followed by a portion from the prophets. There are three services; morning, afternoon, and evening.
Of the festivals of the Jews we can mention only a few, and those merely in a cursory manner. The principal are those of the new report, of the passover, of pentecost, of the new year, the fast of atonement, and the feast of tabernacles. That the festival of the new moon might be celebrated as nearly as possible on the day of the moon's conjunction with the sun, most of the months contain alternately twenty-nine and thirty days; and the feast of the new moon is held on the first, or on the first and second days of the month. The women are not allowed to work: the men may. Good eating and drinking particularly distinguish this festival. The feast of the passover commences on the fifteenth day of the month Nisan, and continues among Jews who live in or near Jerusalem seven days, and elsewhere eight days. The Sabbath preceding is called the great Sabbath, and is kept with most scrupulous strictness. The mode and materials for making the unleavened cakes for the passover are most minutely described by the rabbies, as well as all the ceremonies of this feast. It is customary for every Jew to honour it by an exhibition of the most sumptuous furniture he can afford. The table for the feast is covered with a clean linen cloth, on which are placed several dishes: on one is the shank bone of a shoulder of lamb or kid, and an egg; on another, three cakes, wrapped in two napkins; on a third, some lettuce, parsley, celery, or other herbs; these are their bitter herbs. Near the salad is a cruet of vinegar, and some salt and water. There is also a dish representing the bricks which their forefathers were required to make in Egypt: this is composed of apples, almonds, nuts, and figs, formed into a paste, dressed in wine and cinnamon. The first two days, and the last two, are kept with particular solemnity and strictness. Contracts of marriage may be made, but no marriage is to be solemnized during this festival. The feast of pentecost, on the sixth day of the month Sivan, continues two days, and is kept with the same strictness as the first two days of the passover. It is a received opinion of the Jews, that the world was created on the day of their new year; and they therefore celebrate the festival of the new year by a discontinuance of all labour, and by repeated services in the synagogue. The fast of atonement is on the tenth day of Tisri: the first ten days of the month are called days of penitence, during which the Jews believe that God examines the actions of mankind; but he defers passing sentence till the tenth. On the eve of the fast, a ceremony, evidently designed, as a substitute for their ancient sacrifices, is performed. This consists in killing a cock with great formality. The cocks must on no account be red: white is the preferable colour. Before the fast begins, they endeavour to settle all their disputes. In the afternoon they make a hearty meal, to prepare for the fast, which is of the most rigid kind. The feast of tabernacles commences on the fifteenth of Tisri, and is kept nine days. Every Jew who has a court or garden is required to erect a tabernacle on this occasion; respecting the materials and erection of which the rabbies have given special directions. The eighth and ninth are high days, particularly the last, which is called the day of the rejoicing of the land.
Such are the opinions, traditions, rites, and ceremonies of the great majority of the modern Jews; but, beside these, there is a small sect denominated Caraites, that is, textualists,—persons attached to the text of the Scriptures. They reside chiefly in the Crimea, Lithuania, and Persia; and at Damascus, Constantinople, and Cairo: their whole number is very inconsiderable. They agree with other Jews in denying the advent of the Messiah. The principal difference between them consists in their adherence to the letter of the Scripture, and in the rejection of all paraphrases and interpretations of the rabbies. They also differ from the rabbies in various particulars respecting their feasts of the passover, pentecost, and tabernacles. They observe the Sabbath with far greater strictness. They extend the degrees of affinity within which marriage is prohibited; but they are more strict in matters of divorce.
3. JEWS, CALAMITIES OF THE. All history cannot furnish us with a parallel to the calamities and miseries of the Jews; rapine and murder, famine and pestilence within, fire and sword, and all the terrors of war without. Our Saviour wept at the foresight of these calamities; and it is almost impossible for persons of any humanity to read the account without being affected. The predictions concerning them were remarkable, and the calamities that came upon them were the greatest the world ever saw. See Deuteronomy 28, 29; Matthew 24. Now, what heinous sin was it that could be the cause of such heavy judgments? Can any other be assigned than that which the Scripture assigns? "They both killed the Lord Jesus and their own prophets, and persecuted the Apostles," 1 Thessalonians 2:15; and so filled up their sins, and wrath came upon them to the utmost. It is hardly possible to consider the nature and extent of their sufferings, and not conclude their own imprecation to be singularly fulfilled upon them: "His blood be on us, and on our children," Matthew 27:25 . At Caesarea twenty thousand of the Jews were killed by the Syrians in their mutual broils. At Damascus, ten thousand unarmed Jews were killed; and at Bethshan, the Heathen inhabitants caused their Jewish neighbours to assist them against their brethren, and then murdered thirteen thousand of these inhabitants. At Alexandria, the Jews murdered multitudes of the Heathens, and were murdered, in their turn, to about sixty thousand. The Romans, under Vespasian, invaded the country, and took the cities of Galilee, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum, &c, where Christ had been especially rejected, and murdered numbers of the inhabitants. At Jerusalem the scene was most wretched of all. At the passover, when there might have been two or three millions of people in the city, the Romans surrounded it with troops, trenches, and walls, that none might escape. The three different factions within murdered one another. Titus did all in his power to persuade them to an advantageous surrender, but they scorned every proposal. The multitudes of unburied carcasses corrupted the air, and produced a pestilence. The people fed on one another; and even ladies, it is said, boiled their suckling infants, and ate them. After a siege of six months, the city was taken. They murdered almost every Jew they met with. Titus was bent to save the temple, but could not: six thousand Jews who had taken shelter in it were all burned or murdered. The outcries of the Jews, when they saw it, were most dreadful: the whole city, except three towers, and a small part of the wall, was razed to the ground, and the foundations of the temple and other places were ploughed up. Soon after the forts of Herodian and Machaeron were taken, the garrison of Massada murdered themselves rather than surrender. At Jerusalem alone, it is said, one million one hundred thousand perished by sword, famine, and pestilence. In other places, we hear of two hundred and fifty thousand that were cut off, beside vast numbers sent into Egypt, to labour as slaves. About fifty years after, the Jews murdered about five hundred thousand of the Roman subjects, for which they were severely punished by Trajan. About A.D. 130, one Barcocaba pretended that he was the Messiah, and raised a Jewish army of two hundred thousand, who murdered all the Heathens and Christians that came in their way; but he was defeated by Adrian's forces. In this war, it is said, about six hundred thousand Jews were slain, or perished by famine and pestilence. Adrian built a city on Mount Calvary, and erected a marble statue of a swine over the gate that led to Bethlehem. No Jew was allowed to enter the city, or to look to it at a distance, under pain of death. In A.D. 360, the Jews, encouraged by Julian, Constantine's nephew, and now emperor, wishing to give Jesus the lie, began to rebuild their city and temple; but a terrible earthquake, and flames of fire issuing from the earth, killed the workmen, and scattered their materials. And after the death of Julian, the edict of Adrian being revived against them, and Roman guards prohibiting their approach, till the seventh century they durst not so much as creep over the rubbish to bewail the destruction of the city, without bribing the guards. In the third, fourth, and fifth centuries they were many of them furiously harassed and murdered. In the sixth century, twenty thousand of them were slain, and as many taken and sold for slaves. They were severely punished, A.D. 602, for their horrible massacre of the Christians at Antioch. In Spain, A.D. 700, they were ordered to be enslaved. In the eighth and ninth centuries they were greatly derided and abused; in some places they were made to wear leathern girdles, and ride without stirrups upon asses and mules. In France and Spain they were much insulted. In the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, their miseries rather increased; and they were greatly persecuted in Egypt. Beside what they suffered in the east by the Turkish and sacred war, it is shocking to think what multitudes of them the eight crusades murdered in Germany, Hungary, Lesser Asia, and elsewhere. In France multitudes were burned. In England, A.D. 1020, they were banished; and at the coronation of Richard I, the mob fell upon them, and murdered a great many of them. About one thousand five hundred of them were burned in the palace in the city of York, which they themselves set fire to, after killing their wives and children. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, their condition was no better. In Egypt, Canaan, and Syria, the crusaders still harassed them. Provoked with their mad running after pretended Messiahs, Califf Nasser scarce left any of them alive in his dominions of Mesopotamia. In Persia, the Tartars murdered them in multitudes. In Spain, Ferdinand persecuted them furiously. About 1349, the terrible massacre of them at Toledo forced many of them to murder themselves, or change their religion. About 1253, many were murdered in, and others banished from, France, but in 1275, recalled. The crusades of the fanatic shepherds, A.D. 1320 and 1330, who wasted the south of France, massacred them; beside fifteen thousand of them that were murdered on another occasion. They were finally banished from France, A.D. 1358; since which, few of them have entered that country. King Edward expelled them from England, A.D. 1291, to the number of a hundred and sixty thousand. In the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries, their misery continued. In Persia they have been terribly used; from 1663 to 1666, the murder of them was so universal, that but a few escaped to Turkey. In Portugal and Spain they have been miserably treated. About 1492, six or eight hundred thousand of them were banished from Spain. Some were drowned in their passage to Africa; some perished by hard usage; and many of their carcasses lay in the fields till wild beasts devoured them. In Germany, they have endured many hardships. They have been banished from Bohemia, Bavaria, Cologne, Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Vienna; they have been terribly massacred in Moravia, and plundered in Bonn and Bamberg. Except in Portugal and Spain, their present condition is generally tolerable.
4. JEWS, PRESERVATION OF THE. The preservation of the Jews, says Basnage, in the midst of the miseries which they have undergone during one thousand eight hundred years, is the greatest prodigy that can be imagined. As most religions depend on temporal prosperity, they triumph under the protection of a conqueror; they languish and sink with sinking monarchies. Paganism, which once covered the earth, is, in the civilized world, extinct. The Christian church was considerably diminished by the persecutions to which it was exposed; nor was it easy to repair the wastes made in it by those acts of violence. But here we behold a people hated and persecuted for one thousand eight hundred years, and yet sustaining itself, and widely extended. Kings have often employed the severity of edicts and the hand of executioners to ruin it. The seditious multitudes, by murders and massacres, have committed outrages against it still more violent and tragical. Princes and people, Pagans, Mohammedans, Christians, disagreeing in so many things, have united in the design of exterminating it, and have not been able to succeed. The bush of Moses, surrounded with flames, ever burns, and is not consumed. The Jews have been expelled, in different times, from every part of the world, which hath only served to spread them in all regions. From age to age they have been exposed to misery and persecution; yet still they subsist, in spite of the ignominy and the hatred which hath pursued them in all places, while the greatest monarchies are fallen, and nothing remains of them beside the name. The judgments which God hath exercised upon this people are terrible, extending to the men, the religion, and the very land in which they dwelt. The ceremonies essential to their religion can no more be observed: the ritual law, which cast a splendour on the national worship, and struck the Pagans so much that they sent their presents and their victims to Jerusalem, is absolutely fallen; for they have no temple, no altar, no sacrifices. Their land itself seems to lie under a never-ceasing curse. Pagans, Christians, Mohammedans, in a word, almost all nations have, by turns, seized and held Jerusalem. To the Jews only hath God refused the possession of this small tract of ground, so supremely necessary for them, since, as Jews, they ought to worship on Mount Zion. In all this there is no exaggeration: we are only pointing out known facts; and far from having the least design to raise an odium against the nation from its miseries, we conclude that it ought to be looked upon as one of those prodigies which we admire without comprehending; since, in spite of evils so durable, and a patience so long exercised, it is preserved by a particular providence. The Jew ought to be weary of expecting a Messiah, who so unkindly disappoints his vain hopes; and the Christian ought to have his attention and his regard excited toward men whom God preserves, for so great a length of time, under calamities which would have been the total ruin of any other people. The whole is a standing proof of the truth of the word of God; as it so signally, and beyond all contradiction, fulfils, even to particulars wonderfully minute, its ancient and numerous predictions.
The long protracted existence of the Jews as a separate people, is not only a standing evidence of the truth of the Bible, but is of that kind which defies hesitation, imitation, or parallel. Were this people totally extinct, some might affect to say, that they never had existed; or, that if they had existed, they never practised such rites as were imputed to them; or, that they were not a numerous people, but merely a small tribe of ignorant and unsettled Arabs. The care with which the Jews preserve their sacred books, and the conformity of those preserved in the east with those of the west, as lately attested, is a satisfactory argument in favour of the genuineness of both; and farther, the dispersion of the nation has proved the security of these documents; as it has not been in the power of any one enemy, however potent, to destroy the entire series, or to consign the whole to oblivion.
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Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Jews'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/j/jews.html. 1831-2.