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REVIEW OF Τ Η Ε JEWIS II NATION, IRON THR
RETURN FROM B A BYLON, Τ Ο Τ Η Ε Α Ρ Ρ Ε Α Ι Ο Υ HYRCANUS A N D ARISTOBULUS TO POMPEY.
We are now to commence a period in the History of the Women of Israel, completely and even painfully distinct from any which has gone before it. Indeed, so complicated, so amalgamated with the histories of other nations, so little purely national is Israel, and so few and far between are the notices of women, in the history of the nation, from the death of Nehemiah to the dispersion,—that there is very, very little which we can claim our own, or from which we can glean the consolation and lessons for individual social guidance, which are presented in the word of God. So little is there, in fact, of woman, that we may be censured for dwelling so long on a period which has so little to do with a work entitled “The Women of Israel,” as almost to contradict its name. Yet where there are so very few works relative to our bistory in the vernacular idiom, and still fewer in which the Hebrew himself comes forward, with an attempt to fill up the void in national literature, and give the youth of his dation some assistance, distinct from the peculiar tenets which must pervade the writings of the most liberal of other creeds ; we trust, that to linger a little while on our general history and thus explain away some of the errors and prejudices which have unconsciously gathered round us from unanswered accusations, may not be considered unnecessary, or even irrelevant to the subject on which we professed to treat.
Where there is no allusion to the Women of Israel of the past, let it be remembered that we are writing for the Women of Israel of the present; and, therefore, that we do not depart from the profession of our title. To the men of Israel—the
works of our own ancient writers, are, or ought to be, open ; and they, therefore, cannot need the feeble effort of a female pen : but woman does. She has neither the time nor privilege, nor, in fact, the capability of seeking and penetrating into the vast tomes of stupendous learning, the complicated and allegorical questions and replies, narratives and histories, contained in the works of our venerable teachers ; but is she on that account, to remain entirely ignorant of the history of her people, in which, whether in prosperity or adversity, in patriotism or persecution, she has ever borne a distinguished part ? How is she ever to realize that spirit of nationality and holiness which should be so peculiarly her own, if she knows little of her national history, save from Gentile writers? How know what is demanded of her now, if she does not sometimes ponder on the past; remembering, while she shudders at the awful sufferings of her peop.c, that what has been, may again be. And. is she endowed with the same noble spirit which guided her hapless ancestors ? Has she the same deep love of her God, and His religion, which will keep her faithful in the midst of the horrors of persecution, or amidst the yet more dangerous ordeal of prosperity and peace ? How is she to know this, if she looks upon herself only as the child of the soil which has given her a home, and all its attendant blessings? How is she to feel this, if she looks on the history of her people as far too antiquated to concern her now, and lends but too ready an ear to the false tale, that ancient and modern Judaism are totally distinct. How is she to reject prejudice, and to separate the true from the false, if all her information concerning the history of her people be derived from Gentile writers ? It is expecting far too much from human nature to believe that we can feel as Jews, only because we are born such. More particularly women, who seeing so little different in the daily routine of their domestic lives from those around them, may be liable entirely to overlook their nationality, and imagine that a formal adherence to peculiar forms and ceremonies is sufficient for them; and, in consequence, know much less of their own history, teeming, as it does, with so much to interest and appal, than that of the country in which they dwell.
The scarcity of Jewish works by Jewish writers, is the real cause of this much regretted evil. We have histories without number, and suited to every age, and every taste, of other countries ; but where shall we find one of the Jews which we can safely put into the hands of our children and youth ?* The love of England, of France, of America, is imbibed with their growth, because they know and delight in every event of these their adopted countries; and they would feel the same towards their own land, could they learn as much concerning it.
To provide for this want cannot be accomplished in a work like the present. The writer has only mentioned these things to explain, why, instead of concluding where the biographies of the “ Women of Israel” may appear to conclude, noticing only the few female characters which may be casually mentioned, from the erection of the Second Temple to the Dispersion, she prefers taking a rapid, but connected, survey of the history of her people during that period. Where notices of individuals are scarce, we must endeavor to defend our position from generalities. Analogies may be drawn from the histories of states as well as from the biographies of individuals; and, as we proceed, we shall find that much which may appear from a mere superficial glance irrelevant to the Women of Israel individually, will yet so bear upon them socially, that our assertion of their non-degradation, their equality and elevation in the Jewish law, and in Jewish history, will be strongly and unanswerably confirmed.
The return of the Jews from Babylon did not restore that nationality and exclusiveness which Ezra and Nehemiah hoped, and for which they labored. With the Babylonish captivity, had in truth ended the history of Judea as a distinct nation. The very division of the tribes appears to have been lost; and instead of the patriarchal territories of Reuben, Simeon, Ephraim, &c., we only read of Samaria, Galilee, Perea, Idumea, and of Judea, as signifying a very trifling portion of what had once been comprised under that name. But two tribes returned from captivity, and for them the province termed Judea might have been sufficient; but how changed must they have felt was the aspect of their once beautiful land—how vainly have yearned to behold their brethren occupying the territories which had been assigned them by God himself; and thronging to His one Temple in the feasts He had appointed ? Not only were strangers and aliens within their land, but ten tribes were lost, and they themselves, thougb nominally free, in reality still under the yoke of the Persian kings. Nor was Palestine any longer the only residence of the children of God. Communities were forming in many parts of the world, particularly in the many territories of Persia and in Egypt; and thus, though outwardly bound by the same religion, inwardly, interests could not fail to be divided, according to the position which they occupied in connexion with foreign courts.
* Milman's is an exception. What we want, are those histories which wo can put into young persons' hands ; so written that they are read for pleasure, not as tasks.
of the constant rebellions against their Heavenly King, by the recurrence of idolatry, and those awfu. practices mentioned in the previous periods of their history, we no longer hear; but in their place we find assimilation and intimate connexion with the manners and customs of other nations. In fact, so intimately blended with the histories of Persia, Macedon, Syria, Egypt, Parthia, and, finally, Rome, is the history of Judea from the Babylonish captivity to the War, that it is scarcely possible to divide them, or find any national incidents of sufficient note as to enable us to dwell upon them as we have hitherto done. The Eternal had veiled His face from them. Even in their return, we find no evidence that He had restored them the light of His presence, and acknowledged them once more as a distinct and holy nation-governed by Himself. The very religion, therefore, appears to have taken a different aspect-the High Priest was still nominally the head of the nation-the ceremonials of the law rigidly and perseveringly observed—but its beautiful spirit of love, which had entered into every household, blessing and guiding every domestic relation, appears to have been entirely lost, from the national assimilation with other countries. That there were still families in whom this blessed spirit existed, true and faithful to every spiritual as well as outward ordinance, cannot be doubted ; but in the darkness enveloping this part of our history, we can only trace the general departure of nationality, and prevalence of public evil, which so repeatedly exposed us o misery and wrath. Before the Babylonish captivity, even the periods of most awful iniquity were illumined by rays from God Himself, in the holy men who, inspired by llim, stood up to threaten and console. We were not left entirely to our own hearts—to sin, unrebuked; but on our return from Babylon, this might no longer be—we had indeed power to subdue sin and become holy, fitted once again to occupy the promised land, and in the face of the whole earth stand forth the chosen people of the Lord; but this conquest was to be achieved by individual and national efforts. The Eternal had instructed us in those things, the observance of which would regain His favor. He left us to pursue our own paths.
During the wars of Alexander of Macedon, and the contests of his successors, Judea repeatedly changed masters—and we therefore perceive how 'ittle she can be considered as an independent state. So few claims had she to nationality, that we repeatedly read of the Hebrews joining voluntarily the ranks of their several masters-serving as faithful soldiers to the Greek or Egyptian, and, in consequence, imbibing interests and feelings totally distinct from the Hebrew warriors of the olden time. These soldiers seldom or never returned to their own land, but swelled the Jewish colonies of other states; and, therefore, long before the general dispersion, we perceive the prophesy of Moses already in partial fulfilment-proving at once the utter fallacy of the argument entertained by some Gentiles, that the return from the Babylonish captivity is the fulfilment of those glorious and consoling promises contained in all the Prophetsand comforting us by the conviction, that these things are yet to be.
At length, however, the national spirit was aroused; and for a brief interval independence was secured. The awful cruelties of Antiochus Epiphanes, the universal suffering of the whole Jer-ish people, not only from bodily torment, but from the prohibition of their sacred law (which, of course, on the instant became more dear), the desecration of their holy Temple—evils so terribb, could no longer be endured; and under the heroic Maccabeean brothers, the Jews threw off the yoke of slavery. It was a noble epoch in our history, as full of chivalric daring, of the purest patriotism, of the most heroic perseverance, as can be found in the pages of any history, ancient or modern. They fought for no personal aggrandizement—for no increase of territory--no dominion over their fellows—but simply to purify their land from the abominations which had desecrated its holy soil—to re-establish the religion of their God, and obtain the freedom of their persecuted brethren.
And all this they did. The plan of our present work forbids our lingering on this glorious epoch, and we are compelled to