Images de page

around the table. Every one, though splendidly clad, appeared prepared for a journey. With sandals on their feet, which at other times were not worn in a room, but given to the slaves to be placed at the door, with their garments girt, and staff in their hands, they surrounded the table, A large vessel filled with wine stood upon it, and the meal began by the master of the house blessing it. He laid hold of it with both hands, lifted it up with the right and said, " Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, thou king of the world, who hast given us the fruit of the vine ;" and the whole assembly said, "Amen." Next he blessed the day, and thanked God for having given them the Passover: and then, drinking first himself from the cup, sent it around to the rest. When this was over, he began again; "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, thou king of the world, who hast sanctified us by thy precepts, and commanded us to wash our hands." He and the whole company then washed their hands in silver basin, with water poured from an ewer of the same metal. This was the emblem of purification, and implied, that every one should domo with a puro heart, as well as clean hands, to partake of the paschal meal. The unleavened bread, the bitter herbs, a vessel with vinegar, the paschal lamb, were placed upon the table. The master of the house then spoke again; “ Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, who hast given us of the fruits of the earth," He dipped some of the herbs in vinegar, and the whole company did the same. At this moment, the mistress touched her little grandson, a child of ten years old. Children were always present at this festival, and one design of its establishment was, that the son should learn from the lips of his father the event to which it referred, and the remembrance of it might be thus propagated to the most distant posterity.* The child understood the hint, and asked his grandfather, why on this night alone the guests stood around the table, instead of sitting or lying. With dignity and solemnity, the grandfather, turning to the

*Exod. xii. 26.

child, related to him how their forefathers had been oppressed in Egypt, and how the Lord had brought them out thence with a mighty arm. He described to him the evening which preceded their flight from Goshen, their busy preparation, and their anxiety to conceal it from the Egyptians. The lamb was slain and the blood sprinkled on the door-posts, that the destroying angel of the Lord might pass by their houses when he slew the first-born of the Egyptians. It was to be roasted, not boiled, that it might be sooner ready; it was to be eaten in a standing posture, as by men prepared for instant departure; it was to be consumed entire, for the whole people were to quit their dwellings and never to return to them; and no bone of it was to be broken, for this is the act of men who have time and leisure for their meal.

The bitter herbs were then eaten, and the 113th and 114th psalms were sung. This formed the first half of the great song of praise, which was called emphatically the Hallel, consisting of six psalms, from the 113th to the 118th, sung on all great festivities. A second washing of the hands followed, the cup was a second time blessed and sent round. The master broke off a piece of the unleavened bread, wrapped it in the bitter herbs, and, having dipped it in the vinegar, ate it, and then distributed a portion to each of the company, who did the same; and now the eating of the lamb began, in which the paschal feast properly consisted. Along with the lamb the boiled flesh of the thank offering, which Iddo had made in the temple, was placed upon the table, and blessed by the master of the house. The lamb was wholly consumed, it being forbidden by the law that any part of it should remain till the next day. If any part were not eaten, it was to be burnt. The bones were not to be broken, for everything was to remind them of their hasty flight from Egypt.

Festivity and cheerful conversation now reigned among the whole assemblage. Whether it be that a people, which had suffered so much calamity and oppression, naturally enjoys the more keenly a temporary interval of pleasure, or that every approach to God is to the pure mind a source of joy

and peace, certain it is, that no nation has ever more carefully studied to remove all trace of sorrow from religious services than the Jews. How earnestly do Ezra and Nehemiah exhort the people to lay aside their mourning, when the law was read at the feast of tabernacles, and the curse on its violation made known! "This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not nor weep; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Go your way, eat the fat and drink the sweet; for this day is holy unto the Lord.”*


The company at Iddo's house were not unmindful of these precepts, and the time passed on rapidly in animated disThe servants were not excluded from their share; the innocent playfulness of the children was not repressed, and the gaiety of the females lent wings to the conversation. Iddo was the most animated of all, and Helon thought he had never seen an old man so full of vivacity. "See, thou mother in Israel," said he to his wife," the Lord has blessed us and permitted us to keep one Passover more, before we are gathered to our fathers. Let us thank him for his mercy, by the cheerfulness with which we celebrate it."

All present congratulated the venerable pair, and Iddo continued, "Why didst not thou, Selumiel, bring thy wife and Sulamith, who is lovelier than the fairest rose of Jericho? A prize for some fortunate youth, for as Solomon has said 'A virtuous wife is more precious than pearls.""

"What would Israel be," said Elisama, as the sounds of festivity from the adjacent apartments penetrated into theirs, "what would Israel be without the festivals of Jehovah? Here we are all assembled before the Lord, to praise his faithfulness which is great, and his mercy which is renewed every morning. What compared with these are the Grecian Games at Olympia and Nemea? Would that Myron were here! We children of Israel are one people; we have one God, and one city of the Lord; and every Jew in Egypt, Asia, Syria, and Chaldea, always turns his eyes in his prayers

* Neh. viii. 9.

towards this one place. Think, my friends, that while so many hundreds of thousands are assembled in Jerusalem, millions in the remotest countries, into which our people has been scattered, cast longing looks this evening towards us, envying us our joy, and desiring nothing more, than to be in the Holy City and in the courts of Jehovah! I only regret that Gerizim and Leontopolis —”

"Hush," interposed Iddo, "today speak only of pleasing subjects. Our prince has subdued the rebellious daughter Gerizim. Jehovah ceases not to concern himself with the injuries of Joseph."

"The prophet," replied Elisama, "has declared that all the nations of the earth shall be united in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and when the Messiah comes the sceptre of Judah shall be extended over the whole earth."

"Hyrcanus stands beside the altar," said another of the company," and the family of the Maccabees is flourishing. Who knows whether the Messiah will not speedily appear from among them?"

"No," said Elisama, "the Messiah must come from the family of David, and the Maccabees are Levites of the family of Jojarib. The Jewish people and the priests consented that Simon should be their prince and high-priest, till God raised up the true prophet unto them. The Messiah, therefore, will not be a Maccabee, though Hyrcanus unites in himself the three offices to which he will be anointed. But would that he who is promised were come! His way is prepared ; Israel is once more free, and a people. What would I give, if in my grey hairs I might yet be permitted to behold him! What a glorious passover will that be, when He keeps it with us, in Baris or on Zion, and his people accompany him with palm branches and Hosannas! I envy you, Helon, for you may live to see that day."

"It will be a happy day," said Helon, “but not more happy than this." The old men smiled at his enthusiasm, and rejoiced that among the youth of Israel there should be such joy in keeping the festivals of Jehovah.

It was now become late. The hired servants, stationed by the waterclock in the court, called the fifth hour of night, and the paschal meal was not permitted to last longer than to the end of the first watch of the night, which terminated somewhere about an hour before midnight. There were two other watches between this and daylight, divided by the two cock-crowings. They heard the guests in the other apartments reciting the song of praise, and hastened to conclude. With the same prayer as before, they washed their hands again from the silver basin, and Iddo, having again blessed the cup, they drank once more from it. This was called the cup of thanksgiving. The second part of the Hallel was now sung, consisting of the 115th, 116th, 117th, and 118th psalms. Helon thought of the words of Isaiah, "Ye shall sing as on the night of a holy feast, and rejoice in your hearts as when they go with a pipe to the mountain of the Lord, to the refuge of Israel."* When the Hallel was finished, hands were again washed, and the cup was blessed and sent round for the fourth and last time. Helon would gladly have joined in praying the great Hallel, as they call the series of psalms from the 120th to the137th, after which it was customary to send round the cup a fifth time, but midnight was already too The company broke up, and all retired to rest, designing to be early in the temple on the following day.





WHILE the paschal lamb was eaten by the people, the priests in the temple were cleansing the altar of burnt-offering. This was commonly done in the last watch of the night, to

* Isaiah xxx. 29..

« PrécédentContinuer »