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CHAP. higher culture of the intellect. As such it had continued to be prized in Egypt by the members of the hierarchy', even though neglected or disparaged by the bulk of the people; among whom, indeed, on losing its original significance, it came to be regarded merely as an ancient custom or a sanitary and prudential regulation. It might also in some districts be corrupted, with corruptions of religious thought, into a species of bloody offering3, or might even as a substitute for human sacrifices be administered in every case with the intention of propitiating an angry god, like Moloch or Huitzilopochtli. But whatever had become the heathen version of this symbol, no one will deny that when the Hebrew father circumcised the members of his household, he both acted with a definite purpose and was animated by a spirit thoroughly religious. There the rite was not to be administered, as once it was in Egypt, at the age of fourteen and upwards 'when reasons of health or purity might prompt it,' but as soon almost as the recipient of it was a sharer in the blessings of existence,-on the eighth day after birth. As such it formed a strictly national solemnity, embracing not the favoured classes of society to whom it gave admission to the higher forms of intellectual greatness, but extend

1 Origen distinctly affirms this (in Ep. ad Roman. Lib. II. c. 13; Opp. v. 138, 139, ed. Lommatzsch), adding that men of science were subjected to the rite of circumcision, and that no persons uncircumcised were allowed to study the sacerdotal or hieroglyphic characters.

2 Cf. Herod. II. 37, and above, p. 107, n. I.


3 Part III. p. 198, n. 2.
ger (Heidenthum und Judenthum,

p. 790) appears to have adopted this theory: Erinnert man sich, dass auch in Rom und bei den Galliern frühere Menschenopfer durch eine leichte Wunde, ein Ritzen der Haut und Vergiessen einiger Blutstropfen ersetzt wurden, so ist es wohl denkbar, dass auch die Beschneidung ein solcher stellvertretender Opfer-Ritus gewesen sei:' cf. Kurtz, Gesch. des Alt. Bund. I. 185.


ing always to the lowliest member of the Hebrew CHAP. commonwealth. And corresponding to the freedom of its spirit and its equal operation was the grandeur of the end for which it was appointed. Like the rest of the Mosaic institute, that symbol was profoundly ethical. Translated into words, the meaning of it was 'Be ye holy, for I am holy.' 'The Lord appeared to Abraham, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect; and I will make my covenant between Me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly' (Gen. xvii. 1, 2). The rite of circumcision, as the narrative proceeds to tell us, was the seal and 'token' of this covenant (ver. 11). Outward in the flesh, and so according with the sterner genius of the old œconomy, it imprinted on the mind of every Hebrew the peculiar closeness of his own relations to the pure and perfect God, and the necessity therein implied of fearing and of loving Him, and circumcising more and more 'the foreskin of the heart' (Deut. x. 12-16).



(2) Another instance where it is imagined that Egyptian the symbolism of heathen countries has been reproduced among the legal institutions is the figure of the cherubim, compared with the Egyptian sphinxes of the Pharaonic times. No question of this kind has been more frequently discussed, and few, it might be added, to so little profit. There is now indeed far less uncertainty than heretofore about the shape and meaning of the ancient sphinx. It was in Egypt of three kinds : 'the andro-sphinx, with the head of a man and the body of a lion; the crio-sphinx, with the head of a ram and the body


CHAP. of a lion; and the hieraco-sphinx, with the same body and the head of a hawk'.' The first of these, which from the nature of its composition is most capable of being brought into comparison with the Hebrew cherub, is now regarded as a symbol of the union, in a fabulous shape, of mental and of physical energy2; the wisdom and intelligence of the man, combining with the courage and the brute force of the lion. Where a sphinx was planted by the Old Egyptian in the neighbourhood of the throne, the special properties which it was meant to symbolise were all attributed to the king himself; but where, as still more frequently happened, the position was in front of some Egyptian temple, it was rather meant to celebrate a union, in the deity there worshipped, of the same exalted and commanding powers.

Compound symbols in other coun

When we turn, however, to the Hebrew symbols which are often deemed in close analogy to tries. this, and strive to ascertain their real form and meaning, it is most important to observe that such compounded representations had never during the historic period been exclusively Egyptian*.

1 Wilkinson, 2nd ser. II. 200. This writer justly observes that the head of the human being in the first division is never feminine, much less virginal, as Bähr (Symbolik, 1. 358) has incorrectly reasserted.

2 Wilkinson, Ibid. Hengstenberg, Die Bücher Mose's und Aegypten, p. 159.

3 This reference to a deity is denied by Wilkinson, who thinks that all sphinxes, wherever placed, were 'types or representatives of the king:' but the theological import of such at least as were placed before temples was known to Plutarch (De Is. et Osir. c. IX.), and is maintain

able on other grounds: cf. Rawlinson's Herodotus, Vol. 1. p. 633, on the Man-Lion and the Man-Bull, as symbols of two Babylonian divinities. 4 See the numerous examples of the contrary collected in Bähr, 1. 357, 358, who declares with reference to the compound figures of ancient Egypt, that he cannot find a single instance possessing any true affinity to the Hebrew cherubs. The nearest approach to any actual resemblance, viz. a combination consisting of the heads of four creatures (a lion, a man, an ox, and an eagle) seems to be among the emblems of Hinduism (p. 352). Wilkinson, 2nd ser.


On the contrary, they seem to have abounded in CHAP. all regions of the ancient world, in which the monuments of sacred art have been transmitted to our times. It has been stated, for example, that in the earliest Assyrian monuments, one of the most frequently met with is the eagleheaded human figure. Not only is it found in colossal proportions as sculptured upon the walls or guarding the portals of the chambers, but it is also constantly represented among the groups on the embroidered robes. In other cases, the head of the bird occurs united with the body of a lion, under which form it is the same as the Egyptian hieraco-sphinx'.'

not related

One definite parallel to representations of this The cherub kind has been suggested in the griffin of the to the griffin. Greek mythographers, which was avowedly an importation from some eastern system; but the specious theory, framed by Herder' for connecting griffins by a second link with cherubim of Holy Scripture, though revived from time to time by the more daring of philologers, is destitute of all

II. 275, was most reminded of the Hebrew cherubs and their position in the tabernacle, by two figures of the goddess Thmei (or Truth) overshadowing by their wings the sacred beetle of the Sun.

1 Vaux, Nineveh and Persepolis, p. 32, Lond. 1850: cf. pp. 293, 294.

2 See the ample refutation of it in Bähr, I. 350 sq. Dr Donaldson, Christian Orthodoxy, p. 354, has somewhat extended the dimensions of this theory by connecting the Greek harp-ies, which Homer designates as stormy winds,' and the Greek Kerb-erus, which barred the entrance to Hades,' with the sphinx

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of Egypt, which, he says, 'watched
over the sepulchres,' and the
of Holy Scripture, which he charac-
terises, first, as 'the harpy or seizer,'
and, then, by a transition hard to
follow, as 'symbolical of the Di-
vine presence,' and a 'sign of warn-
ing to forbid a rash or profane ap-
proach to the shrine of inaccessible
sanctity' (p. 355). It may seem
presumptuous to disbelieve or con-
trovert the etymology of cherub, here
suggested; but Dr Donaldson knows,
as well as I do, that a multitude of
other guesses, quite as plausible,
have been in turn examined and re-
jected by Hebrew lexicographers.


CHAP. internal probability as well as of historic basis. Cherubim, as they occur in representations of the Bible from its earliest chapters to the closing visions of St John, are not mere guards, or watchers, blocking the approach to some forbidden object. Functions In the text (Gen. iii. 24), which more than others dissimilar. will at first sight favour such interpretation of their

of the two

functions, it is not asserted that the cherubim were placed outside the garden; neither is it said that they were planted on that sacred soil to 'watch' it merely; for if 'watching' was in any sense ascribed to them, as well as to the sword-like flame, the word employed will shew that they were watchers only as the first man was a watcher; they were doing there what he had signally failed to do (ii. 15). And in like manner the position of those emblems in the Hebrew tabernacle had never been upon the threshold of the holiest place, nor even before the mercy-seat, but in immediate contact and connexion with the throne of God Himself (Exod. xxv. 18). A careful survey of these facts will be sufficient to repel the notion that the cherubim were emblems only of exclusive and prohibitory power; and if we seek, as we are bound, the fuller illustration of their form and import in the copious visions of Ezekiel and especially among the wonders of the great Apocalypse, it is evident that whatever may turn out to be their true relation to the sphinx, they differed from the griffin absolutely and entirely. Both indeed were composite in structure, though the figures which make up the symbol were unlike in the two cases: and with this mere shadow of approximation ceases all affinity whatever.

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