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their servants took the liberty too to require, when they were sent on a journey. And if they that belonged to the officers of the king of Persia, enforced their requisitions in a manner similar to that made use of by the people belonging to the Turkish governors of provinces, when they travel on a public account among the Greeks of Moldavia, it is no wonder that Nehemiah observes, with emotion, in this passage, Yea, even their servants bare rule over the people : but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
Whether the preceding governors of the children of the captivity were all Jews, or not, is a matter not easily determined; but it is apparent, from a passage of the book of Nehemiah, that they were not all of them zealous for the welfare of that people, and consequently might be read; to adopt the oppressive managements of other governors of the Persian provinces, and suffer their under officers to do it. The passage I refer to is, ch. ii. 10, When Sanballat the loronite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man ta seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
It may not be amiss to add, that Noldius has observed," that Aben-Ezra, a very celebrated Jewish rabbi, supposed it was a different word that was made use of in his copy of the book of Nehemiah, and that the same reading appears in the Babylonian Gemara, which different word Aben-Ezra apprehended meant, that these governors took from the people forty shekels of silver for the expence of one repast.
d Concord. in roc, 708 A char. Achad 908 is the word Abcnezra read, (resh [n] and daleth (7) being often changed one for the other, as being letters very much re. sembling each other,) but I should prefer the common reading
Such commutations, or money given instead of provisions, may be met with, I think, in the accounts travellers have given of the managements of the East; certainly they have often taken place among the copyhold tenants of our manors.
The supplying the people belonging to government with their provisions on particular occasions, is also what is meant, I apprehend by the prophet Amos, ch. v. 11, Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat; ye have built houses of hewn stone, but ye shall not dwell in them, &c.
The Bishop of Waterford has translated the original word.nswm masath, gift, not burden, but as wheat is not wont to be demanded for those that travel on account of government, but bread, (“ fifty pounds of bread,” said Ali Aga to the poor Moldavian, when he brought him by the force of blows to supply his demands ;) so neither do I remember ever to have observed, in that variety of things that are made presents of in the East, that quantities of wheat were offered to great men; I should ratlier be disposed to believe that the transla
tion of the Septuagint is more exact than our's, where the words of the Prophet are rendered dogz exdenta, (choice gifts, such as the cinnamon of Ali Aga,) as the words of Amos may be understood to mean a gift of something costly and of a select kind, such as cinnamon, for instance, not to be procured without plunging them into difficulties, and consequently be very oppressive; whereas a moderate quantity of wheat must have been as easy to them to part with as many other things, whether presented in order to obtain some favour, or demanded as a due by those that were travelling on behalf of government.
So Sir John Chardin, speaking of the universal custom through the East of making presents to the great, says, that “every thing is received, even by the greatest lords of the country, fruit, pullets, a lamb. Every one gives what is most at hand, and has a relation to his profession: and those who have no particular profession give money. It is an honour to receive presents of this sort. They receive them in public: and even choose to do it when they have the most company. This custom universally obtains through the East; and it is perhaps one of the most ancient in the world.”
If presents were made according to people's professions, a quantity of wheat from one in the farming way of life was not improper ; nor was a stone of flour, or even a bushel of wheat, a more oppressive gift to expect to de-. mand than a fat lamb. In one word, if the requisition of wheat was really the thing that was complained of as oppressive, it must be the greatness of the quantity, not its being wheat.
The Times of journeying, pitching their Tends, &c.
WHEN the father-in-law of the Levite, whose melancholy history is given us in the 19th of Judges, 'was persuading him to stay another night, he told him it was pitching time of the day, according to our marginal translation, that is, the time when travellers were wont to pitch their tents, for their lodging under them all night, and therefore highly improper then to begin a journey. This is very justly rendered in the body of our version, as to the sense, though not as to the turn of the original words—The day groweth to an end: for, in the latter part of the afternoon, Eastern travellers begin to look out for a proper place in which to pass the night.
So it is said, in the preface to Dr. Shaw's Travels, “Our constant practice was, to arise at break of day, set forward with the sun, and travel till the middle of the afternoon; at which time we began to look out for the encampments of the Arabs; who, to prevent such parties as our's from living at free charges
« Ver. 9.
upon them, take care to pitch in woods, valleys, or places the least conspicuous."
It might, very probably, be hardly so late as the father-in-law would have had the Levite suppose ; but certainly too late to set out on a journey of some length, when other people were near looking out for a place where they might commodiously terminate the travelling of that day; and where safe and agreeable lodging-places were not always to be found.
The term pitching, which refers to tents, is made use of, though it is evident the Levite had no tent with him : because many then actually travelled with tents; and others that had none, required at least as much time to find out an agreeable resting-place. Pitching-time then was some time before sun-set, when every body thought of preparing for their rest.
When Dr. Shaw, however, travelled after this manner--the setting out with the sun, and continuing his journey till the middle of the afternoon, it is probable it was in the more temperate part of the year ; at other times they frequently find themselves obliged to travel in the night, and pitch their tents in the forenoon; the event then which the sacred writer has recorded, relating to the Levite, seems to have fallen out in such a time of the year, and not during the summer heats, for in that case, the observing that the day drew towards a close, was no just reason to induce him I P. 17.
: Judges xix. 14-16.