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by this death of the Saviour, but a signal also of all the living benefit which his people continally derive from him by faith, in consequence of his amazing sacrifice; inasmuch as while the blood of the paschal lamb was sprinkled to make atonement, its flesh was converted into a solemn peace-offering feast, in token of friendly covenant with God, and joyful participation of his grace, which are secured only by that believing reception of Christ which he himself speaks of when he says, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. (John vi. 51-56.)
THE FEAST OF WEEKS.
The feast of weeks was celebrated at the close of harvest, as a festival of thanks for its blessings. It was required to be always observed at the end of seven weeks from the second day of the Passover, on which the sheaf of first-fruits was offered, as an introduction to the harvest, and lasted only for one day. It was because its return was determined by reckoning a week of weeks in this way, that it was denominated the feast of weeks; as it was called also Pentecost, or the fiftieth day, because this reckoning of weeks comprehended, of course, a period of forty-nine days. As it celebrated the goodnes of God, in giving the fruits of harvest, (whence it was named sometimes the feast of harvest,) it was distinguished by a first-fruit offering of two loaves of the new flour, presented in the name of the whole congregation. This offering was accompanied with several bloody sacrifices; and there was, besides, a great public offering of such sacrifices prescribed for the day, which had no connection with this, all over and above the regular daily service. (Lev. xxiii. 15-20. Numb. xxviii. 26--31.) There were at the same time many private free-will offerings presented on the occasion, and converted into sacred entertainments. (Deut. xvi. 9-12.) During the public sacrifices that have been mentioned, it was usual, the Jews tell us, to sing over the Hallel.
As the Passover was instituted in commemoration of the wonderful night of redemption, in which the Israelites left Egypt, so it has been imagined that the Pentecost was designed to be a memorial of the giving of the law from
Mount Sinai, which appears to have been just about fifty days later. Of such a design, however, we have no intimation in the bible.
The day of Pentecost has been rendered especially memorable, in Christian history, by the remarkable event of which we have an account in the second chapter of Acts. By selecting such an occasion for the descent of the Holy Ghost upon his disciples, our Lord caused this unanswerable vindication of his truth and power, to have the most extensive notoriety; for always, at that time, there were dwelling at Jerusalem, Jews, devout men, out of every nation under hea ven, gathered for the celebration of the joyful solemnity.
THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
The third great annual festival prescribed by the law, was called the feast of Tabernacles; because, during its solemnity, the people were required to dwell in booths, or temporary habitations, constructed of the boughs of trees, such as were made use of in the journey through the wilderness, in memory of which it was appointed to be kept. It was celebrated from the 15th to the 23d of the seventh month, Tishri, with which the civil year had its commencement; the first and the last, as in the case of the Passover, being considered more particularly sacred and important. Besides the design just noticed, viz. to be a memorial of the journey through the wilderness, its appointment had respect to the season of vintage and gathering of fruits, at the close of which it was observed; so that it was intended at the same time to be a festival of thanks for these, or rather for all the produce of the year now gathered from the field, as the feast of weeks was for harvest, which is spoken of as the first-fruits of all. Hence it is called the feast of ingathering. (Ex. xxiii. 16. Lev. xxiii. 34-44. Nehem. viii. 14-18.)
A great number of public sacrifices were required to be offered during this festival; an account of which may be found in Numb. xxix. 12-38. The season was also distinguished, as the other great festivals were, with private peace-offerings of various sorts, in daily abundance. (Deut. xvi. 13-15.)
Under the second temple, certain peculiar ceremonies
were introduced into the celebration of the feast of tabernacles, in addition to those that belonged to it, originally, by divine appointment. The Jews pretend, indeed, that intimations of their use, before the captivity, are found in the Old Testament; but what they show for such, have no appearance of the sort, except by fanciful interpretation. Such were these that follow.
1. In the law it was commanded-Ye shall take you, on the first day, the boughs of goodly trees, branches of palm trees, and the boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook; and ye shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days. (Lev. xxiii. 40.) These boughs, the Sadducees rightly maintained, were designed to be employed in making booths: but the Pharisees insisted they were designed to be carried by every individual, in his hand, in token of joy; and they farther asserted, that, by the expression translated, the boughs of goodly trees, (which means, literally, the fruit of goodly trees,) was to be understood nothing else than apples of the citron tree, which, accordingly, were appointed to be carried in the same manner. This was established, therefore, as the common usage. On the first day of the feast, every person provided himself with a small bunch of branches of palm, and willow, and myrtle, and was seen carrying it about, wherever he went, all the day long. On the following days it was not thus constantly carried, but only when individuals went up to the temple: each day, however, all were required to visit the temple, with their bunches in their right hands, and every one a citron in his left, and thus pass around the altar, crying aloud, Hosannah, (which means, save now!) and repeating also the whole 25th verse of Psalm cxviii., while all the time the sacred trumpets were sounding without restraint. On the seventh day this ceremony was repeated seven times, in memory of the conquest of Jericho.
2. There was a still more remarkable rite, which consisted in the drawing of water, and solemnly pouring it out upon the altar. Every morning, during the feast, when the parts of the morning sacrifice were laid upon the altar, one of the priests went to the fountain of Siloam, and filled a golden vessel, which he carried in his hand, with its water. This he then brought into the court, and, having
first mingled it with some wine, poured it out, as a drinkoffering, on the top of the altar. And still, as this ceremony was performed each day, the Levites began their music, and sung over the Hallel; while at times, especially when the 118th Psalm was sung, the people all shook the branches which they held in their hands, to express the warm assent of their feelings to the sentiments breathed in the sacred hymn. The meaning of the ceremony is not clear: some of those who mention it, say it was significant of the blessing of rain, which was thus invoked from God; others tell us, it was a sign merely of the joy that belonged to the occasion; others, that it was a symbol of the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit, according to what is said in Is. xii. 3. With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation, which, it is pretended, was spoken in allusion to the usage in question, and so evinces, at once, its antiquity and its sense.
3. Every night, we are told, there was a most extraordinary exhibition of joy, styled the rejoicing for the drawing of water. When the water was offered, in the morning, the solemnity of the worship then on hand would not admit the extravagance of this ceremony; so it was put off till all the service of the day was over, when it began, without moderation, and occupied quite a considerable portion of the night. The scene of it, was the Court of the Women, which, for the occasion, was furnished with great lights, mounted upon four huge candlesticks that overtopped all the surrounding walls in height. Here, while the women occupied the balconies round about, above, as spectators, the Levites, taking their station on the steps that led up into the Court of Israel, at the west end, began to unite their instruments and voices, in loud music, and a general dance was started all over the square. It was, withal, a wild and tumultuous dance, without order, dignity, or grace; every one brandishing in his hand a flaming torch, leaping and capering with all his might, and measuring the worthiness of his service by its extravagance and excess. What made the exhibition still more extraordinary in its appearance, was the high and grave character of the persons that were accustomed to engage in it; for it was not the common people that joined in this dance, but only those that were of some rank and importance, such as the members of the
Sanhedrim, rulers of the synagogues, doctors of the law, &c. It was not until the night was far spent, that the strange confusion came to an end; and then only to be renewed with like extravagance, on the next evening, (unless when it was particularly holy, as the eve that began the Sabbath,) as long as the feast lasted. He that never saw the rejoicing of the drawing of water, runs a Jewish saying, never saw rejoicing in all his life.
Some have thought, that the whole manner in which our Saviour was met, the last time he came up to Jerusalem, was borrowed from the usage, that has been noticed, of carrying branches in the hand, and shouting Hosannah, in the temple, on the feast of tabernacles; and that the use of the ceremony, at this time, was designed to intimate, that what the prayer in Psalm cxviii. 25, then so much used, had respect to, viz. the coming of the Messiah, was now truly accomplished; and that Jesus of Nazareth was no other than this glorious personage, the Son of David, the Redeemer of Israel, that should come into the world: whence it was cried, at the same time, in the language that begins the next verse of the same Psalm-Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! (Matt. xxi. 8, 9, 15. John xii. 12, 13.) The use of palm branches on this occasion, as well as all the show of honour that was made, seems rather to have been taken from the general ancient manner of celebrating triumphs, or public entries of kings into cities; but there can be no doubt, that the minds of the people were carried, at the same time, by natural association, to the usage so familiar, of their great feast, and that their acclamations, accordingly, were really derived from that quarter. A reference to the ceremony of drawing and pouring out water also, is discovered in the gospel history: our Lord, it seems evident, had allusion to it, when, on the last day of the feast, he stood in the temple, and cried, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink! He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of water. It was in this way, he was continually in the habit of taking advantage of earthly objects and circumstances around him, to draw attention to spiritual truths, and to convey the most salutary instruction in a clear and impressive manner; in the VOL. II.