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footstool in their religious assemblies, see chap. ii. 3.
Some ingenious writers then seem to have pushed matters too far, when they have represented the people of the East as anciently sitting cross-legged, or on their hams, as universally as they now do.
Of the Use of Carpets in Devotion, and of Sack
cloth in Mourning.
. THE Eastern people spread mats or small carpets under them when they pray, and even suppose it unlawful to pray on the bare ground; is it not natural to suppose the Jews had something under them when they prayed, and that this was a piece of sackcloth in times of peculiar humiliation ?
When they wore sackcloth in the day, it is not perhaps natural to suppose they slept in fine linen; but I should suppose some passages of Scripture, which, in our translation, speak of lying in sackcloth, are rather to be understood of lying prostrate before God on 'sackcloth, than taking their repose on that coarse and harsh kind of stuff.
The learned and exact Vitringa makes no remark of this kind on that passage of Isaiah, Is it such a fast that I have chosen ? a day for a man to aflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?" He only quotes what is said of Ahab, 1 Kings xxi. 27; and the Jews in Shushan, Esther iv. 2; as of a similar nature, and seems to understand this piece of humiliation before God of lodging on sackcloth. But, surely! it must be much more natural to understand the solemnity of prostration on sackcloth before God, which follows the mention of hanging down the head, used in kneeling, or in standing as suppliants before him, rather than of sleeping in sackcloth, the night before or the night after the day of fasting.
It seems to me, in like manner, to express the humiliation of Ahab with more energy, than as commonly understood : And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and prostrated himself on sackcloth, &c. The like may be said of the lying of the Jews in Shushan in sackcloth.
A passage in Josephus strongly confirms this, in which he describes the deep concern of the Jews for the danger of Herod Agrippa, after having been stricken suddenly with a violent disorder in the theatre of Cæsarea. Upon the news of his danger, “immediately the multitude, with their wives and children, sitting
u Is. lviii. 5.
• Solebant enim, qui se profunde humiliabant, in sacco et cinere jacere, nullo alio capitis aut corporis fulcimento sibi substrato, ut exemplo A chabi, et aliunde liquet.
upon saekcloth, according to their country rites, prayed for the king: all places were filled with wailing and lamentation : while the king, who lay in an upper room, beholding the people thus below falling prostrate on the ground, could not himself remain from tears." Antiq lib. xix, cap. 8, s. 2. p. 951. Here we see the sitting on sackcloth, resting on their hams, in prayer, and falling prostrate at times on the sackcloth, was a Jewish obseryance in times of humiliation and distress.
It is a little unhappy that this passage slipped the recollection of Vitringa, as it sets several places of Scripture in a truer and stronger point of light, than that in which they are usually placed.
The reader will easily imagine, that I do not consider the rendering this clause in a late exquisite and most beautiful translation of Isaiah, as one of the happiest parts of it, “Is it, that he should bow down his head
« like a bulrush; “And spread sackcloth and ashes for his
"couch ?" as I apprehend the spreading the sackcloth was for sitting in a half-kneeling humble posture, and for prostration before God, rather than for sleeping oni
Whether thc Jews used carpets in common in their devotions, as the Mohammedans, and the Persians in particular, now do, I will not take upon me to say; but Sir John Chardin supposes these modern Eastern practices are derived from the Jews, and he tells us, that the Persians that are devout will have a little carpet to perform their devotions on, appropriated for that purpose, though the rooms in which they pray are all over covered with carpets. The reason alledged by them it seems is, that they may appear before God in a low and mean condition, (whereas it is well known that the carpets of the East are often extremely rich, beautiful, and costly.) They do not however use sackcloth in general, but the poorer sort, mats; others of a higher station, felt; and people of quality, fine camblet.”
As they make a scruple of praying on the bare ground, except in travelling, one would be inclined to think this custom rather arose from a care to avoid dirt' as a thing that was defiling, than to express humiliation, for nothing can be more humbling, defilement not considered, than kneeling on the bare ground; however, at present, they have a different appre: hension of things, for they say it is unlawful to pray on the bare earth, or a bare floor, except in journeying, the earth upon which they speak to God being, according to them, holy, it ought to be covered from a principal of doing it honour, and to walk upon it, so covered, barefooted only.
Voy. tom. ii, p. 392, 393. . Ibidem. " It was, it is probable, for this reason that the Jews were wont to choose the sea-shore for kneeling upon when they prayed, of which we find an instance in the Acts of the Apostles, ch. xxi. 5.
The Manner in which the Sabbath is honoured among
the Modern Greeks.
The manner in which the modern christianized Greeks observe the Sunday, derived, · most probably, from the manner in which their
Pagan ancestors observed their sacred days, may be considered as giving a lively explanation of what the Jewish Prophet meant when he said, If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day ; and call the sabbath a delight; the holy of the LORD, honourable ; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself, &c.'
"In the evening," says Dr. Chandler, speaking of his visiting the island Tenedos, “this being Sunday and a festival, we were much amused with seeing the Greeks, who were singing and dancing in several companies, to music, near the town; while their women were sitting in groups on the roofs of the houses, which are flat, as spectators, at the same time enjoying the soft air and serene sky.""
The ancient Egyptian festivals were observed, s Is. lviii. 13, 14. · Travels in Asia Minor, p. 18.