Page images
PDF
EPUB

ment of the atrocious murder which Absalom had com. mitted, and procure the restoration of the fratricide to his country, and the presence of his father.

It was a common practice in the east, and one which, on certain great and joyful occasions, has been practised in other countries, to strew flowers and branches of trees in the way of conquerors and renowned princes. Hea rodotus states, that people went before Xerxes passing over the Hellespont, and burnt all manner of perfumes on the bridges, and strewed the way with myrtles. So did those Jews who believed Christ to be the promised Messiah, and the king of Israel; they cut down branches of the trees, and strewed them in the way. Sometimes the whole road which leads to the capital of an eastern monarch, for several miles, is covered with rich silks over which he rides into the city. Agreeably to this custom, the multitudes spread their garments in the way when the Saviour rode in triumph into Jerusalem.)

The interest which the subjects of the Mogul felt, or rather pretended to feel, in his personal prosperity, was long manifested by a very curious ceremony. On his birthday, in obedience to an ancient custom, he is weighed in a balance, in the presence of his principal nobility. The ceremony is performed in a spacious apartment of his palace, into which none are admitted but by special permission. The scales in which the emperor was weighed when Sir Thomas Roe resided at his court, were plated with gold; and the beam on which they hung, by great chains, was made of the same precious metal. The emperor, sitting in one of these scales, was weighed first against silver coin, which was immediately afterwards distributed among the poor; then he was weighed against gold; after that against jewels. By his weight, (of which his physicians keep an exact yearly account,) they presume to give an opinion relative to the present healthful state of his body; of which, whatever be their real sentiments, they always speak in flattering terms. This ceremony of weighing the emperor of Hindostan, is performed twice every year, in the solar and the lunar anniversary of his birth; and according as he is lighter or heavier than before, the physician appointed to attend pronounces him in a prosperous or declining state. Hence the doom of Belshazzar, written upon the wall, admits of a literal interpretation ; it alludes to a custom which the Hindoos, when they emi. grated from Persia, the land of their fathers, carried with them, and transmitted through a long succession of ages, down to modern times.

h Lib. vii, cap. 54.

Matt. xxi, 8.-11) i Malcom's Hist. of Persia, vol. i, p. 580.

The orientals, as a proof of the profoundest reverence, kissed the fringe of the robe which their sovereign wore. They carried their submission so far as to kiss the letters in which his orders were communicated ; and they treated with almost equal respect the mandates of his chief ministers. The editor of the ruins of Balbec observed, that the Arab governor of that city respectfully applied the firman or letter, containing the commands of the grand signior, to his forehead, when he and his fellow-travellers first waited upon him, and then applied it to his lips.! To this custom Mr. Harmer thinks Pharaoh probably refers in these words to Joseph: “ Thou shalt be over

· Maurice's Hist. vol. iii, p. 328. Indian Antiq. vol. vi, p. 60. Forbes's Orient. Mem. vol. iii, p. 310. Harmer's Observ. vol. ii, p. 351. Pococke's Trav. vol. I, p. 113, 182.

I P. 4.

my house; and according to thy word shall my people be ruled, (or kiss, as it is in the original) only on the throne will I be greater than thou."

The Arabs of mount Carmel, when they present any petition to their chief, offer it with their right hand, af. ter having first kissed the paper. To this custom the words of Solomon seem to allude: “Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer." The Hebrew manner of expression is short and abrupt: Every lip shall kiss, one maketh to return a right answer ; that is, every one shall be ready to present the state of his case, kissing it, as he delivers it to the judge, on whose integrity and abilities he can rely.

When Soliman ascended the throne, “the letter which was to be presented to the new monarch, was delivered to the general of the slaves, contained in a purse of cloth of gold, drawn together with strings of twisted gold and silk, with tassels of the same. The general threw himself at his majesty's feet, bowing to the very ground; then rising upon his knees, he drew out of the bosom of his garment, the bag containing the letter which the assembly had sent to the new monarch. Presently he opened the bag, took out the letter, kissed it, laid it to his forehead, presented it to his majesty, and then rose up.”p To such a custom Job evidently refers in these words: “Oh, that mine adversary had written a book, surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me,

,99 or, on my head.

If the king of Persia beckon to any of his train, it is

• Prov. xxiv, 26.

m Gen. xli, 40.
* D’Arvieux Voy. dans la Palest. p. 155.
p Chardin's Coron. of Soliman, p. 44.

9 Job xxxi, 36.

the etiquette to run forward, and if on horseback to ad. vance at a full trot. This custom seems to be referred to in many passages of Scripture; as in that prayer of the spouse: “ Draw me, we will run after thee;" and in the following prediction : “Behold thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of the Lord thy God, and for the holy One of Israel, for he hath glorified thee." In the same manner the Jews testified their high respect for the Saviour : “ And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him.”

Every person that approaches the royal presence is obliged to take off his shoes, because they consider as sacred the ground on which the king sits, whom they dignify with the title of the Shadow of God. Allusive to this custom, perhaps, is the command given to Joshua : “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot ; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so." And so strictly was this custom observed, that the Persians look upon the omission of it as the greatest indignity that can be offered to them.t

An Indian prince goes abroad in his palanquin, a kind of bed, in which he reclines or sits in state when he pays visits of ceremony, or reposes during a journey, as if he were in his own bed. These words in the Song of Solomon exactly describe the procession of an Indian prince in his palanquin, surrounded by his guards: “ Who is this that cometh out of the wilderness like pillars of smoke. --- Behold, his bed, which is Solomon's: threescore valiant men are about it, of the valiant of Israel."

* Song i, 4. . Isa. lv, 5. Mark ix, 15, &c. Morier's Trav. vol. i, p. 386, 387. s Josh v, 15.

Morier's Trav. vol. i, p. 241.

His hakery, or chariot, has a canopy or dome, covered with cloth or velvet, richly embroidered and fringed, supported by pillars, ornamented with silver and gold, often: inlaid with sandal-wood and ivory; as is the bottom, or framework, raised above the wheels.

With this, says Forbes, seems to correspond the chariot which king Son lomon made himself of the wood of Lebanon.w

Herodotus relates, that the kings of Persia had horses peculiar to themselves, that were brought from Armenia, and were remarkable for their beauty. If the same law prevailed in Persia as did in Judea, no man might ride on the king's horse, any more than sit on his throne, or hold his sceptre. This clearly discovers the extent of Haman's ambition, when he proposed to bring “ the royal apparel which the king used to wear, and the horse that the king rode upon, and the crown which is set upon his head.” The crown royal was not to be set on the head of the man, but on the head of the horse ; this interpretation is allowed by Aben Ezra, by the Targum, and by the Syriac version. No mention is afterwards made of the crown as set upon the head of Mordecai, nor would Haman have dared to advise what by the laws of Persia could not be granted. But it was usual to put the crown royal on the head of a horse led in state; and this we are assured, is a custom in Persia, as it is with the Ethiopians to this day, from them it passed into Italy; for the horses which the Romans yoked in their triumphal chariots were adorned with crowns. Y

7

V

w

Song iii, 7. Song iii, 9. Forbes's Orient. Mem. vol. iii, p. 193. * See also Maurice's Indian Antiq. vol. vii, p. 483. y Dr. Gill in loc.

« PreviousContinue »