Page images



were cut in two (except birds, ver. 10), to typify | the doom of perjurers. For allusions to this usage see Jer. xxxiv. 18; Sus. 55, 59; Matt. xxiv. 51; Luke xii. 46. The perpetuity of covenants of alliance thus contracted is expressed by calling them covenants of salt' (Num. xviii. 19; 2 Chron. xiii. 5), salt being the symbol of incorruption. The case of the Gibeonites affords an exemplary instance, scarcely equalled in the annals of any nation, of scrupulous adherence to such engagements. The Israelites had been absolutely cheated into the alliance; but, having been confirmed by oaths, it was deemed to be inviolable (Josh. ix. 19). The prophet Ezekiel (xvii. 13-16) pours terrible denunciations upon king Zedekiah, for acting contrary to his sworn covenant with the king of Babylon. In this respect the Jews were certainly most favourably distinguished among the ancient nations; and, from numerous intimations in Josephus, it appears that their character for fidelity to their engagements was so generally recognised after the Captivity, as often to procure for them highly favourable consideration from the rulers of Western Asia and of Egypt. ALLON-BAC'HUTH (the oak of weeping), a place in Bethel, where Rebekah's nurse was buried (Gen. xxxv. 8).

ALMON, one of the three cities which belonged to the priests in the tribe of Benjamin (Josh. xxi. 18). It is supposed to be the same as the Alemeth of 1 Chron. vi. 60. ALMON-DIB'LATHAIM, one of the stations of the Israelites on their way from Mount Hor to the plains of Moab, round by Mount Seir (Num. xxxiii. 46).

ALMOND TREE (Gen. xliii. 11; Num. xvii. 8; Eccles. xii. 5; Jer. i. 11). This tree is a native of Syria and Palestine, and is highly ornamental from the beauty of its blossoms.

26. [Almond Tree.] The form of the almond would lead to its selection for ornamental carved work (Exod. xxv. 33, 34; xxxvii. 19), independently of its form


ing an esteemed esculent, as well as probably yielding a useful oil. In Eccles. xii. 5, it is said, "The almond tree shall flourish, and the fruit of the caper droop, because man goeth to his long home.' This evidently refers to the profuse flowering and white appearance of the almond tree when in full bloom, and before its leaves appear. It is hence adduced as illustrative of the hoary hairs of age, in the same way as the drooping of the fruit of the caper seems to refer to the hanging down of the head. Dr. Kitto mentions the almond among the first trees that flower in January. There are two species of Amygdalus in Palestine: the common almond tree, and the peach tree, and both are this month in blossom in every part of Palestine, on both sides of the Jordan. It was doubtless from this winter blossoming of the almond tree, not less than from the snowy whiteness of the blossoms, that the hoary head of the aged man is, by a beautiful metaphor, said in Scripture to flourish like the almond tree' (Physic. Hist. of Palestine).

ALMS. The regulations of the Mosaic law respecting property, and its benign spirit towards the poor, went far to prevent the existence of penury as a permanent condition in society, and, consequently, by precluding beggary, to render the need of almsgiving unnecessary. Poverty, however, considered as a state of comparative want, Moses seems to have contemplated as a probable event in the social frame which he had established; and accordingly, by the appointment of specific regulations, and the enjoining of a general spirit of tender-heartedness, he sought to prevent destitution and its evil consequences (Lev. xxv. 35; Deut. xv. 7, &c.). The great antiquity of the practice of benevolence towards the poor is shown in the very beautiful passage which is found in Job xxix. 13 et seq. How high the esteem was in which this virtue continued to be held in the time of the Hebrew monarchy may be learnt from Ps. xli. 1; see also Ps. cxii. 9; Prov. xiv. 31. The progress of social corruption, however, led to the oppression of the poor, which the prophets, after their manner, faithfully reprobated (Isa. lviii. 7); where, among other neglected duties, the Israelites are required to deal their bread to the hungry, and to bring the outcast poor to their house. See also Isa. x. 2; Amos ii. 7; Jer. v. 28; Ezek. xxii. 29.


However favourable to the poor the Mosaic institutions were, they do not appear to have wholly prevented beggary; for the imprecation found in Psalm cix. 10, Let his children be vagabonds and beg,' implies the existence of beggary as a known social condition. Begging naturally led to almsgiving, though the language of the Bible does not present us with a term for alms' till the period of the Babylonish captivity, during the calamities attendant on which the need probably introduced the practice. From Dan. iv. 27 it would appear that almsgiving had come to be regarded as a means of conciliating God's favour and of warding off evil. At a still later period this idea took a firm seat in the national mind, and alms-deeds were regarded as a mark of distinguished virtue. That begging was customary in the time of the Saviour is clear from Mark x. 46. And that it was usual




for the worshippers, as they entered the temple, to give relief, appears from the context, and particularly from the fine answer to the lame man's entreaty, made by the apostle Peter. The general spirit of Christianity, in regard to succouring the needy, is nowhere better seen than in 1 John iii. 17: Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? With the faithful and conscientious observance of the royal law' of love, particular manifestations of mercy to the poor seem to be left by Christianity to be determined by time, place, and circumstances; and it cannot be supposed that a religion, one of whose principles is that, if any would not work, neither should he eat' (2 Thess. iii. 10), can give any sanction to indiscriminate almsgiving, or intend to encourage the crowd of wandering, idle beggars with which some parts of the world are still infested. The emphatic language employed by the Lord Jesus Christ and others (Luke iii. 11; vi. 30; xi. 41; xii. 33; Matt. vi. 1; Acts ix. 36; x. 2, 4) is designed to enforce the general duty of a merciful and practical regard to the distresses of the indigent; while the absence of ostentation, and even secrecy, which the Saviour enjoined in connection with almsgiving, was intended to correct actual abuses, and bring the practice into harmony with the spirit of the Gospel. In the remarkable reflections of Jesus on the widow's mite (Mark xii. 42) is found a principle of great value, to the effect that the magnitude of men's offerings to God is to be measured by the disposition of mind whence they proceed; a principle which cuts up by the very roots the idea that merit attaches itself to almsgiving as such, and increases in proportion to the number and costliness of our alms-deeds.


One of the earliest effects of the working of Christianity in the hearts of its professors was the care which it led them to take of the poor and indigent in the household of faith.' Neglected and despised by the world, cut off from its sympathies, and denied any succour it might have given, the members of the early churches were careful not only to make provision in each case for its own poor, but to contribute to the necessities of other though distant communities (Acts xi. 29; xxiv. 17; 2 Cor. ix. 12). This commendable practice seems to have had its Christian origin in the deeply interesting fact (which appears from John xiii. 29) that the Saviour and his attendants were wont, notwithstanding their own comparative poverty, to contribute out of their small resources something for the relief of the needy.

ALOES, the two words which are so rendered occur in several passages of the Old Testament, as in Psalm xlv. 8; Prov. vii. 17; Canticles iv. 14, and evidently mean some odoriferous substance which ought not to be confounded with the bitter and nauseous aloes famed only as a medicine, and which is usually disagreeable in odour and nauseous in taste, and could never have been employed as a perfume. The words referred to seem to indicate a kind of fragrant wood called Agallochum, which was brought from India and Arabia. There can be little or no doubt that the same odoriferous wood is intended in John xix. 39, where we are told


that when the body of our Saviour was taken down from the cross, Nicodemus brought myrrh and aloes for the purpose of winding up the body in linen clothes with these spices.


ALPHA (A), the first letter of the Greek alphabet, corresponding to the Hebrew Aleph. Both the Hebrews and the Greeks employed the letters of their alphabets as numerals, and A (Alpha or Aleph) therefore denoted one or the first. Hence our Lord says of himself, that he is Alpha and Omega, i. e. the first and the last, the beginning and the ending, as he himself explains it (Rev. i. 8, 11; xxi. 6; xxii 13).

1. ALPHE'US, father of James the Less (Matt. x. 3; Luke vi. 15), and husband of Mary, the sister of our Lord's mother (John xix. 25); for which reason James is called the Lord's brother' [BROTHER]. By comparing John xix. 25, with Luke xxiv. 10, and Matt. x. 3, it appears that Alphæus is the same person as Cleophas; Alphæus being his Greek, and Cleophas his Hebrew or Syriac name [NAMES].

2. ALPHEUS, the father of the evangelist Levi or Matthew (Mark ii. 14).

ALTAR. The first altar we read of in the Bible was that erected by Noah on leaving the ark. Mention is made of altars erected by Abraham (Gen. xii. 7; xiii. 4; xxii. 9); by Isaac (xxvi. 25); by Jacob (xxxiii. 20; xXXXV. 1, 3); by Moses (Exod. xvii. 15). After the giving of the law, the Israelites were commanded to make an altar of earth; they were also permitted to employ stones, but no iron tool was to be applied to them. This has been generally understood as an interdiction of sculpture, in order to guard against a violation of the second commandment. Altars were frequently built on high places. Thus Solomon built an high place for Chemosh (1 Kings xi. 7), and Josiah brake down and burnt the high place, and stamped it small to powder (2 Kings xxiii. 15). This practice, however, was forbidden by the Mosaic law (Deut. xii. 13; xvi. 5), except in particular instances, such as those of Gideon (Judg. vi. 26) and David (2 Sam. xxiv. 18). It is said of Solomon that he loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David, his father, only he sacrificed the burnt incense on the high places' (1 Kings iii. 3). Altars were sometimes built on the roofs of houses: in 2 Kings xxiii. 12, we read of the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz. In the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, two altars were erected, one for sacrifices, the other for incense: the table for the shew-bread is also sometimes called an altar.

1. The altar of burnt-offering belonging to the tabernacle was a hollow square, five cubits in length and breadth, and three cubits in height; it was made of Shittim-wood [SHITTIM], and overlaid with plates of brass. In the middle there was a ledge or projection, on which the priest stood while officiating; immediately below this, a brass grating was let down into the altar to support the fire, with four rings attached, through which poles were passed, when the altar was removed. As the priests were forbidden to go up by steps to the altar (Exod. xx. 26), a slope of earth was probably made rising to a level with the ledge.

In Exod. xxvii. 3, the following utensils are


mentioned as belonging to the altar, all of which were to be made of brass. (1) pans or dishes to receive the ashes that fell through the grating. (2) shovels for cleaning the altar. (3) vessels for receiving the blood and sprinkling it on the altar. (4) large forks to turn the pieces of flesh or to take them off the fire (see 1 Sam. ii. 13). (5) 'fire-pans; the same word is elsewhere translated censers, Num. xvi. 17; but in Exod. XXV. 38, 'snuff-dishes.'

2. The altar of burnt-offering in Solomon's temple was of much larger dimensions, twenty cubits in length and breadth, and ten in height' (2 Chron. iv. 1), and was made entirely of brass. It is said of Asa that he renewed, that is, either repaired (in which sense the word is evidently used in 2 Chron. xxiv. 4) or reconsecrated the altar of the Lord that was before the porch of the Lord (2 Chron. xv. 8). This altar was removed by king Ahaz (2 Kings xvi. 14); it was 'cleansed by Hezekiah; and in the latter part of Manasseh's reign was rebuilt.

3. Of the altar of burnt-offering in the second temple, the canonical scriptures give us no information excepting that it was erected before the foundations of the temple were laid (Ezra iii. 3, 6) on the same place where it had formerly been built. From the Apocrypha, however, we may infer that it was made, not of brass, but of unhewn stone.


4. The altar of burnt-offering erected by Herod is thus described by Josephus: Before this temple stood the altar, fifteen cubits high, and equal both in length and breadth, each of which dimensions was fifty cubits. The figure it was built in was a square, and it had corners like horns, and the passage up to it was by an insensible acclivity from the south. It was formed without any iron tool, nor did any iron tool so much as touch it at any time.' The dimensions of this altar, however, are differently stated in the Mishna. On the south side was an inclined plane, 32 cubits long and 16 cubits broad, made likewise of unhewn stones. A pipe was connected with the south-west horn, through which the blood of the victims was discharged by a subterraneous passage into the brook Kedron. Under the altar was a cavity to receive the drink- offerings, which was covered with a marble slab, and cleansed from time to time. On the north side of the altar several iron rings were fixed to fasten the victims. Lastly, a red line was drawn round the middle of the altar to distinguish between the blood that was to be sprinkled above and below it.

II. The second altar belonging to the Jewish worship was the altar of incense, called also the golden altar (Num. iv. 11). It was placed between the table of shew-bread and the golden candlestick, in the most holy place.

1. This altar in the tabernacle was made of Shittim-wood overlaid with gold plates, one cubit in length and breadth, and two cubits in height. It had horns (Lev. iv. 7) of the same materials; and round the flat surface was a border of gold, underneath which were the rings to receive the staves made of Shittim-wood, overlaid with gold to bear it withal' (Exod. xxx. 1-5). 2. The altar in Solomon's Temple was similar, but made of cedar (1 Kings vi. 20; vii. 48; 1 Chron. xxviii. 18) overlaid with gold.


3. The altar in the second temple was taken away by Antiochus Epiphanes (1 Macc. i. 21), and restored by Judas Maccabæus (1 Macc. iv. 49). On the arch of Titus there appears no altar of incense.

ALTARS, FORMS OF. In the preceding article the reader is furnished with all the positive information which we possess respecting the altars mentioned in Scripture; but as, with regard to material objects so frequently named as altars, we feel a desire to have distinct images in the mind, some further remarks respecting the forms which they probably bore, may not be unacceptable.

The direction to the Israelites, at the time of their leaving Egypt, to construct their altars of unhewn stones or of earth, is doubtless to be understood as an injunction to follow the usage of their patriarchal ancestors; and not to adopt the customs, full of idolatrous associations, which they had seen in Egypt, or might see in the land of Canaan. As they were also strictly enjoined to destroy the altars of the Canaanites, it is more than probable that the direction was levelled against such usages as those into which that people had fallen. The conclusion deducible from this, that the patriarchal altars were of unhewn stones or of earth, is confirmed by the circumstances under which they were erected, and by the fact that they are always described as being built.' The provision that they might be made of earth, applies doubtless to situations in which stones could not be easily obtained, as in the open plains and wildernesses. Familiar analogies lead to the inference that the largest stones that could be found in the neighbourhood would be employed to form the altar; but where no large stones could be had, that heaps of smaller ones might be made to serve.

As these altars were erected in the open air, and were very carefully preserved, there is at least a strong probability that some of those ancient monuments of unhewn stone, usually called Druidical remains, which are found in all parts of the world, were derived from the altars of primitive times. These are diversified in their forms; and their peculiar uses have been very much disputed. It is admitted, however, that some of them must have been altars; but the difficulty is, to determine whether these altars are to be sought in the Cromlechs or the Kistvaens. It seems to us that the arguments preponderate in favour of the opinion that the Cromlechs are the representatives of the primitive altars, and that the Kistvaens (stones disposed in a chest-like form) are analogous to the arks of the Jewish ritual and of some of the pagan religions [ARK].

Cromlechs, as is well known, are somewhat in the form of a table, one large stone being supported, in a horizontal or slightly inclined position, upon three or more, but usually three stones, set upright. That they were used as altars is almost instinctively suggested to every one that views them; and this conclusion is strengthened when, as is often the case, we observe a small circular hole through which probably the rope was run by which the victims, when slaughtered, were bound to the altar, as they were to the angular projections or horns' of the Jewish altar (Ps. cxviii. 27). It was


The injunction that there should be no ascent by steps to the altar appears to have been imperfectly understood. There are no accounts or figures of altars so elevated in their fabric as to require such steps for the officiating priests; but when altars are found on rocks or hills, the ascent to them is sometimes facilitated by steps cut in the rock. This, therefore, may have been an indirect way of preventing that erection of altars in high places which the Scriptures so often reprobate.

It is usually supposed, however, that the effect of this prohibition was, that the tabernacle altar, like most ancient altars, was so low as to need no ascent; or else that some other kind of ascent was provided. The former is probably right, for the altar was but three cubits high, and was designed to be portable. There is one error in these and other figures of the Jewish altars composed from the descriptions; namely, with regard to the horns,' which were placed at the corners, called the horns of the altar' (Exod. xxvii. 2; xxix. 12; 1 Kings ii. 28), and to which the victims were tied at the time of sacrifice. The word horn was applied by the Jews as an epithet descriptive of any point projecting in any direction after the manner of a horn (not necessarily like a horn in shape); and there is no reason to doubt that the horns of the successive altars of burnt-offerings resembled those corners projecting upwards which are seen in many ancient altars. These are shown in the view depicting the probable form of the Jewish altar of burnt-offerings.

By the time of Solomon it appears to have

[blocks in formation]


been understood that the interdiction of steps of ascent did not imply that the altar was to be low, but rather that it was to be high, and that only a particular mode of ascend was forbidden. The altar of the temple was not less than ten cubits high, and some means of ascent must have been provided. The usual representations of Solomon's altar are formed chiefly from the descriptions of that in Herod's temple given by Josephus and the Rabbins; and although this last was almost one-third higher and larger than the other, it was doubtless upon the same model. The altar of the first temple had been seen, and could be described, by many of those who were present when that of the second temple was erected; and the latter was known to those by whom Herod's altar was built. Very different figures, however, have been formed from these descriptions, and that which we here introduce is perhaps the best and most probable of them.

[graphic][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]



ALTAR AT ATHENS: St. Paul, in his admired address before the judges of the Areopagus at Athens, declares that he perceived that the Athenians were in all things too superstitious, for that, as he was passing by and beholding their devotions, he found an altar, inscribed, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD; and adds, with unexpected force, Him whom ye worship without knowing, I set forth unto you' (Acts xvii. 22, 23). The questions suggested by the mention of an altar at Athens, thus inscribed to the unknown God,' have engaged much attention. Different opinions have been entertained on the subject, and various conjectures made regarding it. No certain information, however, can now be obtained respecting the precise reference of the apostle,


and we are content to rest in the conclusion of Professor Robinson: 'So much at least is certain, that altars to an unknown god or gods existed at Athens. But the attempt to ascertain definitively whom the Athenians worshipped under this appellation must ever remain fruitless for want of sufficient data. The inscription afforded to Paul a happy occasion of proclaiming the Gospel; and those who embraced it found indeed that the being whom they had thus "ignorantly worshipped," was the one only living and true God.'

A'LUSH, one of the places at which the Hebrews rested on their way to Mount Sinai (Num. xxxiii. 13). It was between Dophkah and Rephidim. The Jewish Chronology makes it twelve miles from the former and eight from the latter station.

AM'ALEK, a son of Eliphaz (the first-born of Esau) by his concubine Timna: he was the chieftain, or Emir, of an Idumæan tribe (Gen. xxxvi. 16).


AM'ALEKITES, the name of a nation inhabiting the country to the south of Palestine between Idumæa and Egypt, and to the east of the Dead Sea and Mount Seir. The Amalekite dwell in the land of the south' (Num. xiii. 29 Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah unti thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt (1 Sam. xv. 7). David went up and invade the Geshurites, and Gezrites, and the Amalekites for those nations were of old the inhabitants o the land as thou goest to Shur, even unto the land of Egypt' (1 Sam. xxvii. 8). In 1 Chron iv. 42, it is said that the sons of Simeon went to Mount Seir and smote the rest of the Amalekite that were escaped. According to Josephus the Amalekites inhabited Gobolitis and Petra, and were the most warlike of the nations in those parts and elsewhere he speaks of them a reaching from Pelusium of Egypt to the Re Sea. We find, also, that they had a settlemen in that part of Palestine which was allotted to the tribe of Ephraim. The first mention of th Amalekites in the Bible is Gen. xiv. 7; Chedorlaomer and his confederates returned and came to En-Mishpat, which is Kadesh, and smote al the country of the Amalekites, and also the Amorites that dwelt in Hazezon-tamar. The Amalekites were the first assailants of the Israelites after their passage through the Red Sec (Exod. xvii.). It has been thought improbable that in so short a period the descendants of Esau' grandson could have been sufficiently numerous and powerful to attack the host of Israel; bu within, nearly the same period the tribe o Ephraim had increased so that it could muster 40,500 men able to bear arms, and Manasseh 32,200: and admitting in the case of the Israelites an extraordinary rate of increase (Exod. i. 12, 20), still, if we consider the prostrating in fluence of slavery on the national character, and the absence of warlike habits, it is easy to conceive that a comparatively small band of marauders would be a very formidable foe to an undisciplined multitude, circumstanced as the Israelites were, in a locality so adapted to irre gular warfare. It appears too that the attack was made on the most defenceless portion of the host. Remember (said Moses) what Amalek did unto thee by the way when ye were come


« PreviousContinue »