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ORIENTAL CUSTOMS :
No. 601.-GENESIS i. 5.
And the evening and the morning were the first day.
HE Mosaical method of computing days from sun
set to sun-set, and of reckoning by nights instead of days, prevailed amongst the polished Athenians. And from a similar custom of our Gothic ancestors, during their abode in the forests of Germany, words expressive of such a mode of calculation (such as fortnight, se'nnight) have been derived into our own language. The same custom, as we are informed by Cæsar, prevailed among the Celtic nations. “ All the Gauls," says he, “measure time, not by the number of days, but of nights. Accordingly they observe their birth-days, and the beginnings of months and years, in such a manner, as to cause the day to follow the night.”
No. 602.-iv. 3. Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord.] “To offer to the Deity the first-fruits of the tender herbage, springing up in the vernal season, and of the different kinds of grain and fruits matured by a warm sun, was the practice of mankind in
the infancy of the world. The earliest instance of these oblations on record is that of Cain, the eldest son of the first great husbandman, who, doubtless following paternal precedent, brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord; and of Abel, who also, to the sacred altar of God brought of the firstlings of his flock. The Jews, whose religious customs are, in many respects, similar to the Hindoos, in every age and period of their empire, inviolably consecrated to heaven, the first-fruits of their oil, their wine, and their wheat, and, by the divine institution, even whatsoever openeth the womb, whether of man or beast, was sacred to the Lord. (Numb. xviii. 12.)
There was, according to Porphyry (De Abstinentia, p. 73.) a very curious and ancient festival, annually celebrated at Athens, to the honour of the Sun and Hours, which, in the simplicity of the offerings, remarkably resembled the practice of the first ages. During that festival, consecrated grass was carried about, in which the kernels of olives were wrapped up, together with figs, all kinds of pulse, oaken leaves, with acorns, and cakes composed of the meal of wheat and barley, heaped up in a pyramidal form, allusive to the sun-beams that ripened the grain, as well as to the fire in which they were finally consumed.” MAURICE's Indian Antiquities, vol. v. p. 132, See also EUSEBIUS'S Preparation for spreading the Gospel, b. i. p. 29. Eng. Edit.
No. 603,-iv. 15. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain.] Among the laws attributed to Menu, the following appointment is a remarkable instance of coincidence with, if it cannot be admitted to have been derived from, the punishment of Cain. “For violating the paternal bed, let the mark of a
be impressed on the forehead with a hot iron.
For drinking spirits, a vintner's flag :
Such is the ordinance of Menu." « Criminals, of all the classes, having performed an expiation, as ordained by law, shall not be marked on the forehead, but be condemned to pay the highest fine.”
No. 604.viii. 11. , And the dove came in to him in the
1 evening, and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off.] The connection between Noah's dove and an olive leaf will not appear at all unnatural, if we consider what Dr. Chandler has related. He says, (Trav. in Asia Minor, p. 84.) that the olive groves are the principal places for shooting birds. And in the account of his travels in Greece, (p. 127.) he observes, that when the olive blackens, vast flights of doves, pigeons, thrushes, and other birds repair to the olive groves for food. See also Hasselquist, p. 212.
HARMER, vol. iv. p. 191.
No. 605.-xii. 7. There builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.] The patriarchs took care to preserve the memory of considerable events by set
ting up altars and pillars, and other lasting monuments. Thus Abraham erected monuments in divers places where God had appeared to him. Gen. xiii. 18. Jacob consecrated the stone which served him for ' a pillow while he had the mysterious dream of the ladder. Gen. xxviii. 18. And the heap of stones which was witness to his covenant with Laban he called Galeed. Gen. xxxi. 48. Of this kind was the sepulchre of Rachel, the well called Beer-sheba, Gen. xxvi. 33. and all the other wells mentioned in the history of Isaac. Sometimes they gave new names to places. The Greeks and Romans relate the same of their heroes, the oldest of whom lived near the time of the patriarchs. (Pausan. Dion. Hal. lib. iii.) Greece was full of their monuments. Æneas, to mention no others, left some in every place that he passed through in Greece, Sicily, and Italy. (Virgil Æn. passim.)
FLEURY's Hist. of Israelites, p. 8.
No. 606.-xiv. 18. Melchizidec king of Salem.] It was customary among the ancients to unite the sovereignty and chiet priesthood together.
Rex Anius, rex idem hominum, Phæbique sacerdos.
Æn. ii. 80.
King Anius, both king of men, and priest of Apollo.
No. 607.-XV. 10. Divided them in the midst.] There is. no footstep of this rite any where in the scripture, except in Jer. xxxiv. 18, 19. (on which passage, see Oriental Customs, No. 294.) But from this affair of Abraham, it appears to have been very ancient. St. Cyril, in his tenth book against Julian, derives this custom from the ancient Chaldæans. Others derive the good, birith, which signifies a covenant, from s, batar, which signifies to divide or cut asunder, because covenants were