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As they left the assembly, Helon remarken to Elisana, how much superior, in regard both to sacrifice and instruction, was the condition of Israel to that of the heathen. They offer sacrifice to their gods but they are ignorant of the law; they have temples and altars, but no houses of religious instruction; they have priests, but none to explain their duty to them. On the following day, the third after the Passover the same offerings were made as before; but the evening increased the solemnity, by the approach of the sabbath. It was announced as usual by six blasts of the trumpet, blown by a priest out of the chamber which was situated on the southern side of the temple, at the extremity of the court of Israel, and which served at the same time for the watch-room of the priests and Levites. In the country towns the annunciation was made by blasts of the horn. At the ninth hour (three in the afternoon) the first blast was sounded, as a signal for the cessation of all labor in the field. Troops of reapers and other laborers were immediately after seen coming from all the adjacent country into Jerusalem. At the tenth hour, the second blast was sounded, to announce the time of closing the shops and manufactories, completing the domestic preparations for the sabbath, and putting on their best attire. In every house, two loaves were placed upon the table, as a memorial of the double measure of manna, gathered in the wilderness on the day before the sabbath. At the third blast, the mother of the family lighted the two lamps, which were to burn through the whole of the sabbath. Light, being the symbol of joy and of knowledge, was appropriate to such a solemnity hence the altar blazed, and the household lamp was kindled. The mother, assuming the priestly office, spread out her hands towards the lamp when she had lighted it and said, "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, King of the world who hast sanctified us by thy precepts, and commanded us to light the sabbath-lamp." The fourth, fifth, and sixth blasts followed each other rapidly, as soon as the sun was set; and the sabbath was now begun.
To take a family meal was the first thing done. The
master of the house filled the cup, when all were assembled around the table, and blessed it. The cup was emptied, the master of the house blessed the bread also in the usual form of words, and the meal began.
In the mean time the course of priests had been changed in the temple, that which had been on duty in the preceding week, giving place to that whose turn of service it was for the week following. The shew-bread was changed, twelve of the priests bringing each one of the new loaves in a golden dish, and two others censers with incense. Then all the children of Israel laid themselves down to rest, in the houses or in the temple, in joyful expectation of the sabbath-dawn.
The sabbath was so solemnly and strictly kept, that it was not allowed to be broken even by the greatest of the festivals; it may indeed be said, that as being the oldest, it was the root and parent of all the rest. It was not merely a day of cessation from labor; its celebration was a weekly acknowledgement, that the One God was worshipped as the creator of heaven and earth; and thus it stood in the closest connexion with the first of the ten commandments which God had given upon mount Sinai.
If, however, the sabbath could not be suspended by the festivities of the Passover, they might receive additional solemnity from the sabbath. Helon felt its sanctity with double force, in this combination. He had risen early in the morning, and could scarcely wait till the hour arrived, for his going up with the old men to the temple, for the first time in his life, to spend a sabbath there. The morning sacrifice consisted on this day of the usual offering of a lamb; then followed the special offering of the sabbath, two lambs of a year old, with the meat and drink offering that belonged to them. Last of all, the festival-offering, which consisted of two young bullocks, a ram, seven yearling lambs as a burntoffering, and a goat as a sin-offering. In the mean time the sabbath psalm was sung by the Levites from the fifteen steps.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery,
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work,
I will triumph because of the works of thy hands.
O Lord! how great are thy works;
Thy thoughts are very deep!
A brutish man knoweth not this,
Nor doth a fool understand it.
When the wicked spring as the grass,
For lo! thine enemies shall perish!
All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
And mine eye
shall see my desire on my enemies,
And mine ear shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.
The righteous flourisheth like the palm-tree,
He groweth like a cedar in Lebauon.
They that are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bring forth in old age,
They shall be full of sap and flourishing,
To show that Jehovah is just,
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.—Ps. xcii.
Helon remained the whole day in the temple, witnessed the evening-sacrifice, and heard the sound of the trumpet The old which proclaimed that the sabbath was at an end. men retired soon after the morning-sacrifice leaving him to his own reflections, and rejoicing that one was found among the youth of Israel, so full of enthusiasm for the service of Jehovali. Helon, as he wandered about the courts of the temple, was revolving a design, which had long been forming in his bosom, and which had been rapidly matured by the feelings of the last few days.
THE CLOSE OF THE FEAS T OF THE PASSOVER.
ALTHOUGH the greater part of the people had already returned to their homes, to begin the harvest, and large companies had taken their departure every morning with the music of cymbals and psalms, all the priests and Levites still remained, and a great multitude of the people. Not fewer than one hundred thousand men were still to be seen assembled in the courts of the temple.
One day Helon was present at the evening sacrifice, and was witness of a novel scene. He was standing beside the thirteen chests, which were placed in the court of the Women. Each of these chests was inscribed with the name of the gift which was to be deposited in it. Some were of the capitation tax, others, for the money which remained over and above of the destined sum when the victim had been purchased; others, for voluntary gifts for the benefit of the temple. A Jew of Cyrene came to bring the capitation tax of his countrymen. The law had enacted as follows: "The Lord spake unto Moses, saying, when thou takest the sum of the children of Israel, they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord, when thou numberest them, that there may be no plague among them when thou numberest them: this shall they give, every one that is numbered a half-shekel, according to the shekel of the sanctuary: a half-shekel shall be the offering of the Lord. Every one, from twenty years and upwards, shall give an offering to the Lord; the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than a half-shekel, that it may be for a memorial unto the children of Israel before the Lord, to make an atonement for your souls."* The shekel is a coin which contains twenty gerahs,
*Exod. xxx. 11.
+ Num. iii. 47.
and has different times been of different values, but since the time of the high-priest Simon, has been equal to a Grecian stater. The coin, as struck by him, has a beautiful stamp ; on the one side is seen, in the centre, the budding rod of. Aaron, with the legend around it, "The holy Jerusalem:" on the other side is a pot of manna, and the words "Shekel of Israel." Whole and half-shekels were coined. It was such a half-shekel that every Jew of twenty years and upwards was bound to give, as an acknowledgment of his belonging to the people of Jehovah. It might be considered as a capitation tax levied in the last month of the ecclesiastical year. On the first day of this month, Adar, the Sanhedrim sent messengers through the whole country, who demanded the half-shekel, and fifteen days were given for the payment. On the fifteenth day of Adar, the receivers of the half-shekel took their seats beside the chests, in the court of the Women, and all who were twenty years and upwards brought their contribution. If any one neglected to do so, compulsory measures were resorted to, in order to obtain it. To the very poorest persons a further respite of a year was granted, and for this reason a chest for the past year was placed by that which received the contributions of the present. At this time a multitude of the poorer class were seen soliciting alms from the rich, to enable them to discharge their debt. This was the only kind of begging which the law allowed in Israel. Strangers, who came to Jerusalem chiefly at the festivals, were accustomed to take these opportunities of discharging the debt, especially at the Passover, which was some weeks later than the day of the month Adar, on which it became due.
The Cyrenian had brought the sum which was due from his Jewish brethren in Cyrene, and was about to deposit it in the chest. But it was necessary that it should be paid in shekels, and he had only foreign coin. As this was a case of frequent occurrence, the receivers of the shekel were also money-changers, and had their tables beside the chest. For