Images de page

fifteen steps, and passed through the gate of Nicanor. Next was the court of the Priests, of the same dimensions as the court of Israel. At its termination stood the altar of burntoffering, fifteen cubits high and fifty in length and breadth. Beside it was the bath which supplied the place of the brazen sea in Solomon's temple.* At the distance of twentytwo cubits the sanctuary with its triple division arose; being besides twenty-two cubits higher than the court of the Gentiles. Along the sides of these courts were porticoes, and a multitude of considerable buildings; the floor was throughout of marble.

When Helon reached the Beautiful-gate, it was scarcely possible to pass, so great was the crowd of men and lambs. The children of Israel, out of all the tribes from Dan to Beersheba, from the extreme point of Galilee to the desert of Arabia, strangers from Egypt, Cyprus, Syria, Cappadocia, and Babylon, were here assembled in their festive attire. Every master of a house carried his lamb upon his shoulder, or had it driven before him by his servants. In the spacious court of the Gentiles stood vast flocks of lambs and kids, the dealers in which carried on a very extensive traffic at the time of the Passover. The bleatings of the sheep and the exclamations of their drivers resounded between the shouts of joy and the hymns of praise.

Helon passed through the court of the Gentiles, scarcely noticing what was going on there, to the enclosure behind the railing, keeping his eyes fixed upon the altar of burntofferings. He looked up the fifteen steps, on which the Levites were already standing with their instruments, through the gate of Nicanor, and gained a view of the interior of the sanctuary. It was like a glimpse of heaven to him. He saw not the riches and splendor of the gold; he felt not the pressure of the crowds around him. A feeling of intense devotion wrapped his soul, and for a time suppressed every other emotion.

* 1 Kings, vii. 23.

His companions roused him, by directing his attention to the court of the Priests. The evening sacrifice, which this evening was killed an hour earlier than usual, was already brought to the altar, the holy place was illuminated, and they were burning incense in it. Helon gazed around him, on the sanctuary, the altar, the courts, and the multitude which filled them, bewildered and overpowered, and incapable of fixing his attention upon any single object in the scene. He did not even notice the absence of the high-priest, whom in his imagination he had always pictured as ministering at the altar, or in the holy of holies; at this moment he was engaged in some of the adjacent buildings, making preparations for the festival.

Iddo conducted Helon about this time into the court of the Gentiles, where the slaves with Sallu were waiting. The lamb must be without blemish, more than eight days and less than a year old. The people had divided themselves into three great bodies in the court of Israel. When the evening sacrifice was over, a priest opened all the folding doors of the court of the Priests, and allowed one division to enter. The priests stood in a row, reaching from the place where the lambs were killed to the altar, each holding in his hand a basin. Iddo was amongst the first. He presented his lamb and mentioned the number of the company who were to partake of it. They must not be fewer than ten, nor more than nineteen. He then drew his knife through its throat, the priest who was nearest to him received the blood in his basin, and handing it to his neighbor, it was passed from one to the other, till it reached the priest who was next to the altar, and who poured the blood upon it. Each as he handed the full basin to his neighbor received an empty one from him with the other hand; thus all was done with incredible despatch.

The father of each family killed the paschal lamb himself. In ordinary cases the priests were the sacrificers, but once in the year the master of the house was himself a priest, as a memorial that Israel was a nation of priests. The Levites in

the mean time sung on the fifteen steps the great Hallelujah, and at each psalm the priests on the pillar, which stands by the altar, blew the trumpet three times. Iddo carried the lamb to the pillar, hung it to one of the hooks, and taking off the skin and the fat, gave the fat to the priest, who salted it and laid it upon the altar. He then carried the lamb home. So did every one of the body who had been first admitted ; and when they had all finished, the folding-door opened again, and a second body was admitted. Without the greatest regularity, it would have been impossible in so short a time that such a multitude of lambs should have been killed. Helon descended the steps with Iddo, who had also offered a thank offering; and as he paused at the gate and looked back, he mentally exclaimed, "Better is a day in thy courts than a thousand elsewhere!"

[blocks in formation]

THE Passover was now begun. The day of preparation was past; every master of a house had killed his paschal lamb on Moriah, attaining for this day an equal dignity with the highest order in the state, and exercising a sacerdotal function. The festival was called in Hebrew Pesach, or according to the Chaldee pronunciation, which was then become universal, Pascha, the deliverance, or the passing over. The companies who were to eat the paschal lamb were already assembled, and the lambs were roasting in the deep ovens in the women's apartments.

These ovens were excavations in the ground, about two feet and a half broad, and five or six feet deep. The sides were covered with stones, which were heated by a fire kindled at the bottom, and then the lamb was suspended

within, on a piece of wood running lengthwise. It was expressly commanded by Jehovah, "Ye shall not eat of it raw, nor sodden with water, but roasted with fire."* The fifteenth day of the month Nisan, or Abib (our April) the first of the sacred year, was now arrived. The Jewish day began with sunset, an emblem that primeval darkness had preceded the birth of light, and that all life has its origin in a period of darkness.

When all the preparations were ended, and the Passover just about to begin, Helon hastened to the roof of the house. He looked down upon the open place and up to Moriah and Zion, to the mount of Olives, and on the valleys of Gihon and Kedron. "Wherever I look," thought he, "hundreds of thousands of the children of Israel and the seed of Abraham are assembled to commemorate their deliverance from Egypt. They have come up to the hill where Jehovah had made his name to dwell, and their minds are filled with the thought of their fathers, and the mighty works which the God of their fathers had done in their behalf. Well is it said, Israel is Israel only in the Holy Land." He entered the Alijah, and remained long in fervent prayer. When he came again upon the roof, the last glow of evening over Zion was illuminating the city, and the lamps which were kindled in every house and tent shone through the thin veil of vapor which was spread over the prospect. He lingered on the roof till the golden margin of the western clouds had disappeared and the stars had begun to twinkle in the firmament.

When he went down and entered the inner court, he saw within the porticoes three rooms brilliantly illuminated. It was not possible for all the guests to eat the Passover with the master of the house, because each company was not to exceed twenty. Two other apartments had therefore been prepared for other parties. On such occasions, we have before observed, no citizen of Jerusalem considered his house as his own, but cheerfully resigned it for the use of strangers,

*Exod. xii. 9.

who according to ancient custom acknowledged his courtesy, by the gift of the skin of the paschal lamb. The light was streaming through the lattices of all the rooms, and Helon entered, with a beating heart, that which was appropriated to the use of Iddo and his peculiar guests. A multitude of smaller lamps were suspended from the walls, and one of great size stood in the middle. Costly carpets were spread on the floor, tapestry was hung on the sides, and gold and silver glittered on the divan, though it was not used on this evening; for the paschal lamb was to be eaten standing. The air was filled with the fragrance of Arabian frankincense and the most exquisite perfumes. The women were all richly clad, especially the mistress of the house, who appeared this evening in all her choicest ornaments, a mother in Israel in the city of God. It was only on this day that the women ate with the men; even the men servants and maid servants were not excluded. The whole household of every rank and age, even the children, if they had begun to taste flesh-meat, must be assembled, and all must be Levitically clean. Of the inhabitants not disqualified by uncleanness none were to be absent, but strangers of the gate, hirelings, and all uncircumcised persons: for such had been the command of Jehovah, "There shall no stranger eat thereof."* All the rest were on this night brethren, for all had been delivered by Jehovah from the house of bondage. The bondsman was as the freeman, the woman as the man; and all partook alike of the festivity; all were the people of Jehovah, and equal in his sight.

In the middle of the room stood the table, which in the east is always low, because the guests either lie around it on sofas, or sit on carpets. On this occasion, however, there was neither sofa nor carpet near the table, which stood apart, as if the preparations were but half finished. It was about the middle of the second hour of evening (half past seven) when the company, consisting of nineteen persons, assembled

*Exod. xii. 43.

« PrécédentContinuer »