Page images


Kolume. They are both then used in the East, but if one is spoken of more than the other, it is, I think, the perfuming persons with odoriferous smoke.

The Scriptures in like manner speak of perfumes as used anciently for civil purposes, as well as sacred, though they do not mention particulars. Ointment and perfumes rejoice the heart, Prov. xxvii. 9. Perhaps this word perfume comprehends in its meaning the waters distilled from roses, and odoriferous flowers, whose scents in the East, at least in Egypt, if Maillet may be admitted to be a judge, are much higher and more exquisitely grateful, than with us; but if those distillations should be thought not to have been known so early, the burning fragrant things, and the making a sweet smoke with them, we are sure, they were acquainted with,' and to that way of perfuming Solomon at least refers. But a passage in Daniel makes it requisite to enter more minutely into this affair, and as at the same time it mentions some other Eastern forms of doing honour, which I have already taken notice of, but to all which in this case ohjections have been made, I will make my remarks upon it in a distinct P Plate 17 R.

Let. IX. p. 14. * See Exod. xxx. 35, 38. .

- Sir J. Chardin tells us in one of the notes of his MS. that it is the common custom of the East, to have censers at their feasts, and perfumes are much more common there than in Europe. The ashes or embers of perfume, mentioned Tobit vi. 16, and ch. viii. 2, evidently refer to this custom, on which passage Sir Jobo has not made any re. mark.

article, which I will place immediately after this, and shew how easy that little collection of oriental compliments may be accounted for, as well as explain more at large this particular affair of burning odours merely as a civil expression of respect,


This Subject farther illustrated from Dan. ii. 46,

The passage in Daniel I referred to, which may be explained by this Eastern custom, is this, Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation, and sweet odours unto him. Chap. ii. 46.

St. Jerom tells us, that Porphyry objected to this account of Nebuchadnezzar's prostration before the Prophet;' he could not comprehend how it could be true, that an haughty king should adore a captive : and he reproached Daniel for accepting his oblation and his honours.

This father supposed that the oblation signified a sacrifice, and the sweet odours incence; but I cannot say that he appears to have had his mind embarrassed with this passage, so much as with the proposal made by the servant of Saul to his master, when he thought of consulting the Prophet Samuel. I wish I could

' In Dan. cap. 2.


[ocr errors]

say however he had explained it so as to be less embarrassing to others : it will be thought, I imagine, by most, a difficult passage, at least, and that notwithstanding his comment, in which Jerom supposes, that Nebuchadnezzar's acknowledgment that the God of Daniel was a God of gods, and a revealer of secrets, was a proof that he offered these sacrifices, and this incense, not so much unto Daniel as unto God in Daniel, after which, calling Porphyry a calumniator, he dismisses the subject, having first, though happily enough, remarked with respect to the prostration, that Alexander the Great did the same to the Jewish high-priest.

Later commentators are not much more satisfying in their comments than this celebrated ancient. The note of Grotius on the latter part of the verse being this, “In the Hebrew it is, he commanded a mincha to be offered him, (that is, a cake of flour, and odours.) He commanded it, but Daniel did not suffer it to be done : for universal custom had set apart these honours to God, or to those who were accounted gods. So Jacchiades, and other rabbies comment on the place.”. And according to this interpretation this passage is generally understood.

But there is no necessity, I apprehend, of suipposing this an idolatrous command. We do not find Daniel rejecting these honours, as Paul and Barnabas did those of the inhabitants of Lystra. To say that he did, though it is not mentioned, is a very licentious way of exs plaining Scripture. Mr. Maundrell has not applied his observations on the modern Eastern compliments to this text, as he did to that concerning the servant of Saul; but they are, I imagine, as applicable as to the other : and the whole of what Nebuchadnezzar commanded : might very possibly be of a civil nature, and no ways improper to be addressed to the Prophet. The making this out is what I would here attempt. · Notwithstanding universal custom had set apart these honours to God, or those that were accounted gods, according to Grotius, he himself allows the prostration might not to be idolatrous; and says, so great a Prophet was not unworthy this honour, citing the example of that captain that Ahaziah sent the third time to take Elijah. And indeed we have already seen, that nothing is more common than this sort of compliment in those countries, and that without any intention of idolatry, or suspicion of such intention. It is true, princes in common received from Prophets this token of respect, rather than paid it to them; nevertheless, in some extraordinary conjunctures, and this was such a one, the reverse may well be supposed to have happened. Thus sacred history informs us, Saul stooped down with his face to the ground, and bowed himself when Samuel appeared, 1 Sam, xxviii. 14; and Josephus tells us, that Alexander of Macedonia (a heathen prince, as Nebuchadnezzar was, and as haughty as he,) adored the Jewish high


priest that came to meet him, not as a god, but as a high priest of God, Jerom mentions this action of Alexander's, and so far, I think, has sufficiently disembarrassed himself from the reproaches of Porphyry.

As to the second particular, though our translators have made use of the term oblation, yet the original word o minchah, signifies not only a cake of flour offered unto God, but often a present, and that of very different things, made to mortal men. It is used for the presents in particular made by Jacob to Esau, Gen. xxxii. 13. &c. by his sons to Joseph, Gen. xliii. ll; by Ehud to Eglon, Judg. iii. 15; &c. It is used in like manner to signify the presents made to the Prophets of GOD, where there never lias been, nor can be, the least jealousy in the world of any idolatrous design, though made by heathen kings, such as Nebuchadnezzar was; so it expresses the present made by the king of Syria to Elisha, 2 Kings viii, 9. It is by no means necessary therefore to understand the present of Nebuchadnezzar of an idolatrous oblation, or of any thing more than such a gift, as it was becoming a Prophet to receive.

It may, perhaps, be thought an objection this, that these presents were wont to be made to the Prophets before the exercise of their office: so was that to have been which Saul intended for Samuel, 1 Sam. ix. 7, &c. ; such was Jeroboam's to Ahijah, 1 Kings, xiv. 2, 3; and the king of Syria's to Elisha, which I this

« PreviousContinue »