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not the advantage of telescopes. Yet from several passages, in Job and elsewhere, it is plain that they observed the stars, and all the host of heaven. The inhabitants of the country round Babylon early observed the stars with great accuracy, and ascertained much respecting the motions of the heavenly bodies. The wonders they beheld caused them to worship the host of heaven, which was the earliest species of idolatry. Job alludes to this, ch. xxvi. 7, when, speaking of the power of God, he says, “ He hangeth the earth upon nothing :” which proves that they understood something about the wonderful manner in which the earth is, as it were, suspended in the heavens. But the Bible was written to make men wise unto salvation, under the teaching of God the Holy Spirit. This is so fully set forth, that even a plain man may understand the evil of sin, and the truths of the gospel ; though he may be very much puzzled to make out a learned book about natural history or astronomy. When any remark is made respecting the sun, moon, and other heavenly bodies, they are usually spoken of just as they appear to our view.
The ancient Greek philosophers principally derived what good there is in their systems from the Jews. Thales was in Egypt at the time when many of them were captive in that land ; and there is good reason to believe that Pythagoras was in Judea, and also had much intercourse with the captives at Babylon.
DIVISIONS OF TIME.
The eastern computations of time by days, months, and years, were made from observations of the heavenly bodies. The Jewish day was reckoned from evening to evening, Lev. xxiii. 32. In the account of the creation, Gen. i., the evening is mentioned before the morning. The day varied in length at different times of the year, but not so much as in England, Judea being more to the south, The longest day is about fourteen hours, consequently the short, est is about ten. The day was divided into four parts, Neh. ix. 3 ; afterwards into twelve hours. Sun-dials were constructed to mark the divisions of time. The ancients had no clocks or watches like ours; but they had some contrivances to find out how time passed : as by cups with very small holes in the bottom, which being put to float in a vessel of water, would sink in a certain space of time : or by burning long candles with marks along them, or other methods.
The first mention of hours is Dan. iii. 6, 15; and, as the Jews were then captives in Babylon, it is probable they learned this division of time from the Chaldeans, who were great astronomers. The hours were counted from six in the morning to six in the evening; consequently, the third hour was our nine in the morning, the ninth hour was our three in the afternoon : see Mat. xx. 3, 5, 6, 9 ; many other texts are explained by this. The night was at first divided into three parts, called watches : see Lam. ii. 19; Judg. vii. 19; Exod. xiv. 24. These divisions would be longest in winter ; and it is easy to suppose how ardently the morning light would be desired by those who watched during a long, severe winter night, Psa. cxxx. 6. In the time of our Saviour, the night was divided into four watches : see Mark xiii. 35.
These are representations of the most ancient dials known to exist. The upper one is cut in a rock at Athens : the other was found at Rome. The sun-dial of Ahaz is considered to have been something of this sort, 2 Kings xx. 11.
The two evenings, Exod. xii. 6, margin, was the time between three and five. The paschal lamb was sacrificed at that time. Our blessed Lord, who was represented by that lamb, expired at three, and was taken down from the cross at sunset, about five.
The division of weeks has nothing to do with the observations, or the periods, of heavenly bodies. It proceeds from the institution of the sabbath, Gen. ii. 2. The Jewish sabbath was on the seventh day, or Saturday. After the resurrection of our blessed Lord, the day of rest was altered to the first day, that on which he rose from the dead. The reasons for this are shown in
the subject. They are well stated in the tract written by Dr. Dwight, on the Sabbath, published by the Religious Tract Society.
It is remarkable that the division of time into weeks, or periods of seven days, has been found among heathen nations, as well as Jews and Christians. It was observed by the Greeks and Romans of old, and it is now regarded by the Chinese and East Indians. It is a striking proof that all nations descended from one parent, and that the observance of the sabbath was a Divine command, as is recorded in the Bible.
The observance of sabbatical and jubilee years, see Lev. xxv., had reference to the institution of the sabbath. Many texts direct the holy observance of this day, and sabbath breaking constantly leads on to other crimes. It is very sad to see how common this sin is. It is a national sin, and if persisted in, will bring down national judgments upon England, as it did on Judea of old, 2 Chron. xxxvi. 21. Let us remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
The Jewish months were lunar months, that is, each was nearly one change or revolution of the moon, being alternately twenty-nine and thirty days. Persons were set to watch on the tops of high hills for the first appearance of the new moon, of which notice was given by sound of trumpet and messengers, Psa. lxxxi. 3, and the first day was a solemn feast. The solar year, or the time in which the earth goes round the sun, being more than twelve lunar months, the Jews were forced to add a month every second or third year, else the spring months and festivals, in a few years, would have fallen into the middle of winter. The method of observing the time of Easter, which is the same season as the passover, by making it depend upon the moon, causes it to come on different days in the months of March and April. The Jewish months were named from the seasons of the year. Thus Abib, the first month, Exod. xii. 2, means green : at that time of the year the ears of corn are green. The years were also divided into six seasons of two months each : seed-time, winter, cold season, harvest, summer, and hot season. The winters in Judea are very cold, and the summers very hot. Notices of the difference in the habits of the people, caused by the winter, may be found, Jer. xxxvi. 22; Ezra x. 13; Ezek. xxxiii. 30; Matt. xxiv. 20; John x. 22. The heat of summer is very great. 2 Kings iv.19; Psa. cxxi. 6.
The “ third day” is to be counted by including both the day from which, and to which, the counting is made. Thus our Saviour was crucified on Friday, and rose again from the dead on Sunday, the third day. The same applies to the eighth day, and to other similar expressions.
The Jews were accustomed to number their years from remarkable periods. The departure from Egypt was a very memorable one, Exod. xix. 1 ; xl. 17; Numb. i. 1 ; ix. 1; xxxiii. 38; 1 Kings vi. 1. Afterwards, from the building of the temple, 1 Kings ix. 10; 2 Chron. viii. 1. Also the Babylonish captivity, Ezek, i. 1 ; xxxiii. 21 ; xl. 1.