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hardly possible for the imagination to conceive of a crime that is not mentioned in the laws of Moses. The deception practised by Abraham and his son Isaac, lest the beauty of their wives should be the occasion of their own death, betrays habits and manners sufficiently violent and profligate. That the husbands of Sarah and Rebecca should have been willing thus to consult their own safety, at the risk of exposing them to insult, is by no means extraordinary among a people where polygamy prevailed; for in all such countries the value placed upon women has an origin essentially low and depraved. We are told that Sarah herself consented to pass for the sister of her husband; and both in Egypt and in Gerar the handsome stranger was ordered into the household of the king. That marriage was acknowledged as a protection, and that the concealment of it left her defenceless, is shown by Pharaoh's earnest expostulation with Abraham: "What hast thou done unto me? Why saidst thou, She is my sister? Why didst thou not tell me she was thy wife?" The same is likewise implied by the reproof which Abimelech, king of the Philistines, gave to Abraham, and afterwards to his son Isaac, under similar circumstances.
The occupations of the ancient Jewish women were laborious. They spent their time in spinning and weaving cloth for garments, and for the covering of the tents; in cooking the food, tending the flocks, grinding the corn, and drawing water from the wells. When Abraham entertained the three strangers under
the tree before his dwelling, "He hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth." Jacob found Rachel tending the flocks of her wealthy father; and when Abraham's servant sought the beautiful Rebecca as a wife for Isaac, the damsel not only drew water for him, but for his camels also.
The performance of these tasks does not necessarily imply a deficiency of respect for women, for at that period kings and princes were in the habit of reaping their own grain, and slaying their own cattle. The condition of women then bore a general correspondence to that of the men, as it ever since has done.
The manners were generally rude, and females of course were not treated with the politeness which has prevailed in modern times. Thus when the daughters of Jethro came to draw water for their flocks, the shepherds of Midian drove them away, notwithstanding their father was high priest of the country.
Jewish husbands seem to have had a discretionary power of divorcing their wives; and no bargain or vow made by a woman was binding, unless made in the presence of her father or husband, and with their sanction.
Before the time of Moses, women appear to have been incapable of inheriting the estates of their fathers, even when he died without other heirs. The daughters of Zelophead brought before Moses, the
priests, the princes, and the congregation a petition, setting forth that their father had died in the wilderness without sons; on which account they thought themselves entitled to a share of his possessions. Moses granted the petition, and ordained that in future, when a man died without sons, his inheritance should descend to the daughters.
We know little of the amusements of Israelitish women; but in the early periods of their history, when both sexes were almost constantly occupied in procuring the means of subsistence, it is not probable that amusements were either frequent or various. Music and dancing were unquestionably among the most ancient recreations of human beings. I imagine they were coeval with language itself; for they were but varied manifestations of those emotions and thoughts which words were framed to express. Among modern highly civilized nations, dancing is indeed regulated by merely artificial rules, and has as little to do with character as the projection of a map; but in more simple forms of society, the national dances, like national tunes, are an embodiment of the characteristic passions of the people: such are the war dances of the Indians, and the voluptuous dances of the East.
Moses speaks of singing men and singing women; and throughout the Old Testament there is frequent mention of music and dancing at sacred festivals. After Pharaoh and his host had perished in the Red sea, we are told that "Miriam the prophetess took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went
out after her with timbrels and with dances. And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously."
Deborah and Barak likewise joined in a song of triumph, after the defeat of Sisera.
Whether music and dancing were entirely confined to public and solemn occasions, is uncertain; but we can hardly imagine that it was so. The ancient Israelites, like other people who live in similar climates, no doubt highly enjoyed family meetings in the open air, each one under the shadow "of his own vine and fig-tree;" and to have had musical instruments, without using them on such occasions, would have been a strange perversity.
In the later periods of Jewish history, a class of public singers probably existed, whose character was similar to such classes now found in the East; this may be inferred from the words of the son of Sirach, use not much the company of a woman who is a singer."
In the patriarchal ages the Jewish women must have enjoyed a large share of personal freedom; for we read of all ranks engaged in the labors of the field, and going out of the cities to draw water. That they were not usually secluded from visiters seems to be implied by the question which the strangers asked Abraham, "Where is Sarah, thy wife?" Indeed, living as they did in tents, and removing so frequently, it would have been no easy matter to have preserved the complete privacy that exists in the seraglios of the East. But as the Jews grew more
numerous and wealthy, the higher ranks indulged in a much greater number of wives, and kept them more carefully secluded. Solomon had seven hundred wives, and three hundred mistresses; but these, like horses and chariots, were probably valued merely as the appendages of ostentatious grandeur. Το prevent the increasing tendency to polygamy, a law was made forbidding any man who took a new wife to diminish the food and raiment of his other wives, or in any respect to treat them with less attention.
The part of the house appropriated to females was called the armon. It was universally toward the east, and entirely separated from the apartments of the men. None but the nearest male relations were ever allowed to pass the threshold. Any infringement of this law was punished with great severity.
The houses in Palestine were built with flat roofs, and in such a manner as to inclose in the centre a large, open, quadrangular court, called the chazer or thavech. This court was as completely sheltered from public observation as the most private apartment. It contained a fountain shaded by palm trees, and screened by an awning which could be drawn over it whenever occasion required; it was ornamented with columns, vases of flowers, and tesselated marble, according to the wealth of the owner. Here the women pursued their occupations, played with their children, and enjoyed the cool evening air, seasons when there was no danger of the approach of strangers. The arrival of male visiters was