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afternoon; hours corresponding with the temple services. None might pass the door of a synagogue during service, unless they had some object requiring them to do so.
The synagogues were used for private prayer as well as the temple, individuals resorting thither as a place for retirement. Schools were sometimes taught in the synagogues.
The teachers sat on raised seats, while the scholars stood at their feet or before them. St. Paul says he was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the most celebrated teachers of that day, Acts xxii. 3. The words of the apostle, Acts xxiv. 12, and other passages, indicate that synagogues often were places of discussion, conference, and debates connected with matters of religion, and the rabbins and elders used to meet for such discussions.
The rulers of the synagogues possessed a power of judgment. This they exercised, with the concurrence of the elders, over the members who offended against the law. The culprit was stripped from his shoulders to his middle, and bound by the hands to a low pillar, so that he was obliged to lean forward and present his back to the scourge. The law forbade the infliction of more than forty stripes, Deut. xxv. 3; and in order to be sure not to exceed this number, the Jews usually restricted the punishment to thirty-nine. It was usually inflicted by thirteen blows from an instrument with three cords or lashes. The punishment of scourging in a synagogue, was to be considered rather as a fatherly correction than as a public shameful punishment; but it was often abused for vindictive or persecuting purposes. The apostle Paul seems to record five such punishments having been inflicted upon him, 2 Cor. xi. 24: doubtless with severity, from hatred to Christianity. Our Lord alluded to the same punishment, Matt. x. 17; xxiii. 34, when he told his disciples that they should be scourged in the synagogues. In Luke xii. 11, there is reference to these courts of judgment. Saul desired letters to the synagogues in Damascus with the same design, Acts ix. 2. Excommunication, or casting out, was a very
punishment. The offender on whom this sentence passed, was shut out from joining the public prayers and religious services; he was looked upon as a mere heathen, and debarred of all the privileges enjoyed by a descendant of Abraham. This most severe sentence was denounced against all who confessed that Jesus was the Christ, John ix. 22; accordingly the blind man, who had been restored to sight by our Lord, was cast out, or excommunicated, when he declared his belief of the Divine nature of the person by whose word the miracle was accomplished.
In the schools taught in the synagogues, the youth received instruction as to the Divine law. In the temple, as well as in the synagogues, assemblies of learned men were held; in one of which the parents of our Lord found him, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions, and all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers, Lightfoot describes three such schools, or places for lectures and inquiries, which were held regularly within the precincts of the temple; one of these was the sanhedrim, when not occupied as a court of judgment: he thinks it is possible, that may have been the place where our Lord was found.
Observe the striking similarity between the services of the Christian churches and the Jewish synagogues. Here is also clearly seen the identity of the spiritual worship of the first and second dispensations, distinct from the ordinances of the worldly sanctuary of the first covenant, which were figures for the time then present, but were done away when Christ came as a High Priest of good things to come, Heb. ix. 11.
PRIVATE DEVOTIONS OF THE JEWS-FASTS, PUBLIC AND
The private devotions of the Jews next claim notice. Enough has been said on the subject of their prayers, to show that prayer was considered an individual as well as a national duty. Nor is there occasion here to enlarge upon that secret communion with God, which will ever be the object of the devout soul, its privilege as well as its duty. By such, a compliance with the injunction of the apostle, “ Praying always,” Eph. vi. 18, will be accounted a privilege, and not be viewed as a burden; believers seek to live always in a prayerful spirit. Nor will the rule of the psalmist, Ps. cxix. 164, to call upon God seven times a day, be deemed a yoke too heavy to be borne. The seasons for intercourse with our blessed Lord and Saviour will become more and more frequent, although not regulated by any precise enumeration, or defined form of words.
The stated hours of prayer among the Jews, were the third and ninth, or nine in the morning and six in the afternoon. In the later times, the repeating of the shema, (see p. 262,) twice every day, was expressly required from
Wotton considers that our Lord alluded to this, when he answered the lawyer as to what was the first and great commandment of the law. Our Lord answered from the shema, which at once satisfied this scribe, who was accustomed to recite these words daily. But when the spirit of pharisaism prevailed, long formularies were set forth, to be repeated at these hours, wherever persons might be. We learn, from Matt. vi. 5, that the Pharisees were pleased when these hours found them in the streets, and that they not only recited their prayers in public, but at the corners of the streets, where they might be seen by the passengers in more than one place of resort. Wotton has given a full description of these postures in prayer. They denoted humiliation, and were various, as the following texts show, and that the prayer was mental as well as audible: Exod. ix. 29; xxxiv. 8; Isa. i. 15; 1 Sam. i. 13; Luke xviii. 11, 13; Psa. cxliii. 6; clxi. 2; 2 Chron. vi. 13; Ezra ix. 5; Lam. iii. 41; Dan. vi. 10; Matt. xxvi. 39; Acts vii. 60; 1 Tim. ii. 1.
Prayers were offered both standing and kneeling, and even prostrate on the ground, when the suppliant was deeply agonized, as Matt. xxvi. 39. Kneeling was considered the most proper, as expressing humility, contrition,
and subjection. Thus Solomon, 2 Chron. vi. 13, Ezra ix. 5, Stephen, Acts vii. 60. The publican, deeply in earnest, smote on his breast while he prayed “God be merciful to me a sinner!” Luke xviii, 13. Frequently the hands were expanded or raised up in prayer. Thus St. Paul speaks of praying everywhere lifting up holy hands, 1 Tim. ii. 8. The numerous postures in prayer customary in the east, are represented in these sketches. The followers of Shammai said, that men ought literally to lie down in their evening devotional services, and quoted the words of Deut. vi. 7. These peculiar postures in prayer may also be considered as outward testimonies that the offerer was engaged in worship. Upon this subject it is sufficient to observe, that the posture cannot be of essential consequence; but this drawing near to the great Sovereign of heaven and earth, should be done with reverence in manner, as well as in the matter of the petitions offered ; and it is well to use such a posture as may promote spirituality in our feelings, and keep our attention alive to the petitions we offer; for who has not often groaned in bitterness of soul for the wanderings of his mind in prayer!
That forms of prayer were in use among the Jews in the time of our Lord is evident, not only from the traditions of the Jewish writers, but from the request of the disciples to Christ, who, in compliance with their petition, gave them a model by which they might frame their prayers, and which might serve as a form for those unable to extend their supplications farther. This was, in fact, the practice at that time, a short summary being prepared for those unable to learn the whole routine of the shema. Wotton has given the form at length, as, probably, it was used in the time of our Lord. It is too long for insertion here. “How great is the difference between these and the Lord's prayer! What vain repetitions are many times here! What little variation of sense, and yet how great a multitude and variety of words!” In these prayers of the Jews very
few of the necessities of life are pointed at. No resignation to the will of God, no confession of human frailty, appear throughout the whole; but chiefly a magnificent ostentation of God's great and miraculous mercies, so spoken of, as if they thought themselves worthy of all the things which had been wrought for their forefathers.
With respect to our Lord's prayer, it has been shown that the Jewish prayers then in use contained some similar expressions. It adopted and concentrated the following clauses contained in their prayers, “ Our Father who art in heaven, be gracious unto us! O Lord our God, hallowed be thy name, and let the remembrance of thee be glorified in heaven above, and upon earth here below. Let thy kingdom reign over us, now and for ever. The holy men of old said, Remit and forgive unto all men whatsoever they have done