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Niebuhr saw an Arabian lady thus alight from respect to a sheikh; another who was on foot, being unable to go
from the road, sat down and turned her back, as a mark of respect. So different are the manners of the east from our own. Kissing the hand, or feet, or hem of the garment, are marks of respect, they are repeatedly mentioned in Scripture, Job xxxi. 27; Matt. xxviii. 9; Luke vii. 45; viii. 44. Or even the ground, Is. xlix. 23; Psa. lxxii. 9.
Among eastern nations it always has been usual to bring presents when people visit each other: they never appear before a prince or great man without having something to offer. There are many instances of this in the Bible; as Jacob, see Gen. xliii. 11; also Ehud, Judg. iii. 18; Hazael, 2 Kings viii. 9; Naaman; the wife of Jeroboam, 1 Kings xiv. 3; also the wise men who came from the east to see the infant Jesus; and many others. The forty camels' burden of Hazael might not be heavy loads; in such cases it is usual to make a long procession, each article being carried separately.
This mark of respect still is always necessary ; however small or mean the gift may be, it is accepted as a proof of attention. Thus, in 1 Sam. ix. 7, observe Saul's anxiety: “ If we go, what shall we bring the man of God ?—there is not a present.” At length, his servant, producing the fourth part of a shekel, (a small piece of money,) said “That will I give to the man of God.” Modern travellers tell us that even when poor people visit, they bring a flower or fruit, or some such trifle. One traveller tells of a present of fifty radishes; and when Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller, had agreed, at the request of a chief, to take a poor sick Arab with him for a great distance, the poor man presented him with a dirty cloth, containing about ten dates. Bruce mentions this to show how important and necessary presents are considered in the east; whether dates or diamonds, a man thinks it needful to offer something. This may explain Rabshakeh's advice, 2 Kings xviii. 31.
The higher the rank of the persons to whom the present is brought, the greater it is expected to be. The queen of Sheba, 2 Chron. ix. 9; Naaman, 2 Kings v. 5; and Berodach-baladan, 2 Kings xx. 12, offered large presents. Thus, the offering of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, all of which were very precious, presented by the wise men of the east, Matt. ii. 11, was a mark of their high respect for Him to whose presence they were led by the wondrous star that had appeared.
There is always much attention to forms in the east. In visiting, the place, and even the method of sitting, are matters of importance. The seat at the corner of the room
is most honourable; visitors are placed there to whom it is intended to show particular respect. Conversation is generally very reserved and grave.
It appears to have been so in ancient times : see Eccl. v. 3, Prov. x. 19, and
many other texts in that book.
When a person visited another, he did not rudely enter the house at once, but he stood at the door, and called aloud, or knocked, and waited till he was admitted: see 2 Kings v. 9; Acts x. 17; xii. 13, 16. This is alluded to in those beautiful texts, Rev. iii. 20; Matt. vii. 7.
When visitors were persons of rank or importance, it was usual to send persons to meet them, as Balak sent the princes of Moab to meet Balaam, Numb. xxii. 7, 13.
Visitors were always received with respect, and attention was always shown to them at parting. “Abraham showed
great respect to his three angelic visitors. On the arrival of guests, water was brought to wash their feet and hands, Gen. xviii. 4; xix. 2; and they were often anointed with oil, Psa. xxiii. 5.
This was the custom in our Saviour's time: Mary Magdalene broke an alabaster box, or bottle, full of precious ointment, and poured it upon his head and his feet. The words Christ spoke to Simon respecting her behaviour, show what was the proper and respectful manner of receiving guests, which Simon seems to have neglected. “ Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for
feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss : but this woman since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed
feet with ointment," Matt. xxvi. 7; Luke vii. 44–46: see also Prov. xxvii. 9.
When guests depart, it is the custom to burn perfumes, (perhaps referred to in Dan. ii. 46,) or sometimes they are sprinkled with sweet-scented water. Bruce was wetted to the skin with orange-flower water, thrown over him as a mark of honour, when leaving the presence of a great man. If they were ambassadors or persons of rank, it was usual to give them clothes: a great many garments were kept ready for this
purpose. Joseph gave raiment to his brethren, Gen. xlv. 22: see also Judg. xiv. 12, 19; 2 Kings v. 5; Rev. vi. 11, etc. A garment already worn is often an especial honour, as Jonathan's present to David, 1 Sam. xviii. 4.
To this custom of great men bestowing raiment upon their guests, our Lord refers, Matt. xxii. 11–13. common for the guests at marriage feasts, to appear in splendid dresses; but as the guests in the parable had neither time nor ability to prepare themselves, the king supplied them with robes for the occasion; this he might easily do, from the large quantity of clothes great men possessed. There could be no greater disrespect than to refuse a present from a superior, as the guest mentioned did, who was so foolish and obstinate as to prefer his own ragged and shabby clothes to the dress that was provided for him. The eastern monarchs have power to command whatever they please, so this guest was considered a rebel against the king's command, and an enemy, and treated accordingly. In how lively a manner this represents the bounty of our heavenly King, and our sinful and wretched state by
nature ! Let us earnestly seek for the robe of the righteousness of Christ ; see Rev. xix. 8; and beware not to pride ourselves on our own filthy ragged state; lest, like the guest mentioned in the parable, we should find ourselves cast out. Remember the advice, Rev. iii. 18, and go to Him who "waiteth to be gracious.”
An ambassador in the east was invited, with his companions, to dine with an eastern monarch.
The interpreter told them that it was the custom that they should wear over their own garments, the best of those which the king had sent them. At first they hesitated, and did not like to have their own robes hidden; but being told that it was expected from all ambassadors, and that the king would be much displeased if they came into his presence
without his robes, they wisely complied.
The Jews rose about the wn of the day, which, in their country, does not differ so much in the summer and winter, as it does in England. They dined about eleven, and supped about five o'clock in the afternoon. These were the hours at which our ancestors dined and supped, till about two hundred years ago. “ To rise early,” is an expression often used as meaning to be diligent, either in good or in evil.
It is often mentioned of good men, that when they desired to fulfil the will of God, they rose early. Abraham, Gen. xxii. 3, when, for the trial of his faith, he was commanded to offer up Isaac, “ rose up early" in the morning : this shows how ready he was to do the will of God, though very painful to him. Thus Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 18, and Moses, Exod. xxiv. 4. Joshua had much to do, and is often spoken of as rising early, Josh. iii. 1; vi. 12; vii. 16; viii. 10; see also 1 Sam. xv. 12. David rose early to fulfil his father's order, 1 Sam. xvii. 20. Job, to sacrifice for his children, Job. i. 5. King Darius, to inquire after Daniel, Dan. vi. 19; and the pious women who went to the sepulchre to pay respect to the body of the Lord, went very early in the morning, Luke xxiv. 1 ; John xx. 1. Travellers in the east, usually begin their journeys before day: this enables them to travel in the cool of the morning, and to rest in the heat of the day. Thus our Lord sat on the well at noon to rest, being wearied with the journey taken that morning, John iv. 6. The sixth hour was noon.
Morier, when he travelled in Persia, observed the people sleeping upon the house-tops: he noticed that the women were generally up the first, and stirring with activity at an early hour. Mc Cheyne saw this at Tiberias. Paxton observed that many houses at Beyrout, have a sort of hut on the flat roof, built with reeds, in which people sleep.
A Latin poet describes a labourer as rising early before day to grind the usual daily portion in his hand-mill, probably like that on next page, but there are others like this representation.
EAND-MILL IN THE EAST.
(See page 40.)