Page images
PDF
EPUB

suburbs, in the case of cities two thousand cubits in diameter, the walls or houses would, in four parts of the circumference, touch the utmost boundary of the suburbs. But such an arrangement would not at all harmonize with the intended plan, and would render the suburbs of very small and quite insufficient extent. And, moreover, according to Le Clerc's explanation, if the diameter of the city were greater than two thousand cubits, the city would, most absurdly, extend beyond its own suburbs. But granting that such an absurdity could not take place, by the city never exceeding two thousand cubits in diameter, however less it might be, yet the larger the city the more confined would the suburbs be, and consequently, if we may suppose, as is reasonable, that a greater number of Levites would be in a large than in a small city, there would be least means of subsistence and accommodation where most was required.

Le Clerc was led into his erroneous view of the subject by assuming as indubitable, that the two thousand cubits mentioned in verse five are intended to denote the length of the lines bounding the suburbs, and forming a square, within which both city and suburbs were included; whereas they may be intended to denote the distance of these lines from the city.

The Septuagint version has two thousand cubits in the fourth as well as in the fifth verse.1 The translator or translators of the Pentateuch, must have known the extent of the suburbs. Josephus makes the extent of the suburbs the same. Now it seems to me unreasonable to suppose that, on this subject, the Septuagint and Josephus should be incorrect. Although Josephus sometimes takes the liberty of deviating from the Scriptures on some points, to render his history more agreeable to his heathen readers; and deviates into error sometimes, when

1 ἀπὸ τείχους τῆς πόλεως καὶ ἔξω δισχιλίους πήχεις κύκλῳ.

2 ἐκέλευε κατανεῖμαι τοῖς Λευίταις ὀκτὼ καὶ τεσσαράκοντα πόλεις ἀγαθὰς καὶ καλάς τῆς τε πρὸ αὐτῶν γῆς περιγράψαντας εἰς δισχιλίους πήχεις ἀπὸ τῶν τειχῶν αὐτοῖς ἀνεῖναι. (Antig. lib. iv. p. 144, ed. Hud.)

'An example of his wish to accommodate his writings to the sentiments of the heathens. Speaking of Moses, he

says: τοιοῦτος μὲν δή τις αὐτὸς ἡμῶν ὁ νομοθέτης, οὐ γόης, οὐδ ̓ ἀπατεών, ἅπερ λοιδοροῦντες λέγουσιν ἀδίκως· ἀλλ ̓ οἷον παρὰ τοῖς Ἕλλησιν αὐχοῦσιν τὸν Μίνω γεγονέναι, καὶ μετ' αὐτὸν τοὺς ἄλλους νομοθέτας. (Contra Apion. lib. II. p. 1376.) Thus reducing Moses to a level with Minos and other legislators, who falsely ascribed their laws to the Gods.

he treats of matters relative to other nations, yet, in subjects in which he had an opportunity of acquiring particular and accurate knowledge, especially in what relates to his own country, he is allowed to merit the character of industry and fidelity. And this praise is given him by the learned Bochart, who, after mentioning some errors respecting foreign nations, which Josephus commits, says, "tot Josephi opáλuara tam paucis verbis docent illi scriptori fidem non esse temere adhibendam, cum versatur in exoticis. Alioqui enim fatendum est nos illi plurimum eo nomine debere, quod suæ gentis historiam summa fide et sedulitate scripsit." (Geog. Sac. pars prior lib. 11. c. 26.) From his situation in life, from education, acquirements, and particularly from his eminent erudition in what concerned the laws and regulations of his own nation; and from the manner in which he passed many years of his life, visiting almost every district and city of Palestine, Josephus was, in more than a common measure, well qualified to write respecting his native country, and especially on subjects that required topographical knowledge and an acquaintance with the legal and religious regulations of the Jews. He was eminently well versed in the erudition of his native country. None, he observes, acquired among his countrymen the reputation of learning, but those who were deeply versed in the knowledge of their national laws, and could explain the full meaning of their sacred writings. (Antiq. lib. xx. p. 903.) Such knowledge had he acquired, even when a youth, that he was consulted, by the high priests and others, on points of Jewish law. (Vita, sect. 2.)

When we reflect on these circumstances in favour of his having been acquainted with the extent of the suburbs of the Levitical cities; and when he plainly states that they extended two thousand cubits from the walls, and, moreover, consider that at least some of the Levitical cities may, in his time, have retained their suburbs according to the mode prescribed by the law, I can with difficulty be persuaded that, on this point, Josephus is incorrect. It may be said that here, as in other places, he merely copies the Septuagint; but he does not follow that version everywhere, and on a particular subject, with which there is every thing in favour of the opinion that he was well

4

· ἐγὼ γὰρ ὡμολογούμην παρὰ τῶν ὁμοεθνῶν πλεῖστον αὐτῶν κατὰ τὴν

ἐπιχώριον παιδείαν διαφέρειν. (Antig. lib. xx. p. 903.)

acquainted, he had not the smallest imaginable inducement to follow it implicitly, in preference to his own knowledge. However, the Septuagint translators must surely have been acquainted with the extent of the suburbs. But if, following the Septuagint, Josephus had interpreted as some commentators in their interpretation of the Hebrew text, he would have extended the suburbs four thousand cubits, instead of two thousand, from the walls, by combining the numbers mentioned in the fourth and fifth verses. That he does not always agree with the Septuagint has been shewn3.

Maimonides says, the suburbs of the cities of the Levites were three thousand cubits on every side, from the walls of the city and outward. The former one thousand were the suburbs, and the latter two thousand were for fields and vineyards. (Lightfoot's Works, 11. 286, folio ed.) Here we have the learned Maimonides against the learned Josephus. But in favour of the interpretation of the passage given by Josephus, there is the pre-eminent advantage of his having been an inhabitant of the country, fully acquainted with it, and living before the Jewish polity was wholly subverted and the nation broken up and dispersed into individuality. Maimonides was also learned in the knowledge appertaining to his country and its laws and customs, as far as books could inform him, when the Jewish nation, as a combined body politic, and its laws and customs, existed only in a pictural image in history. But to Josephus these appeared in real existence before him, breathing, as it were, and acting around him in vital form and operation, though not in the same fulness and vigour as formerly; he was, therefore, better qualified than Maimonides to decide on a matter depending on the political and religious institutions of his country; and which, when obscurity existed, if at that time there was any obscurity or ambiguity in the mode of expression used in the original law, could be best known by the interpretation that had been given of it by actual practice through a

On this subject Cave observes: "In contexenda historia media incedit via inter LXX interpretes et codices Hebraicos, qui Rabbinis a seculo Aquila in usu fuerunt. Negligenter itaque factum a viris doctis indoctisque, qui editionem Interpretum Alexandrinorum Flavium

nostrum secutum esse asseruerunt, cum millies ab illis senibus discedit; ut me nuper monuit optimus Bernardus noster, in quibusvis melioris notæ scriptoribus egregie versatus, in Josepho versatissimus." (Hist. Lit. pars 11. p. 20.)

long lapse of ages. The ancient Hebrew text, too, may possibly have agreed with the Septuagint. The Samaritan, however, is the same as the Hebrew, and the Targum of Onkelos agrees with them. Philo Judæus has two thousand as the extent of the suburbs. (De Sacerdot. Honoribus, p. 645.) In the Vulgate it is, "mille passuum spatio" in the fourth verse; but in the fifth verse, "duo millia cubiti." Lowman understands the thousand cubits mentioned in the fourth verse to be the measurement of the suburbs every way, from the walls of the city into the country; and the two thousand cubits mentioned in the fifth verse to be the measurement from the beginning of the suburbs on the country side into the centre of the city. (Civil Gov. of the Hebrews, p. 110, quoted by Jennings, Jewish Antiq. b. I. c. 5, note.)

According to the opinion of Bishop Cumberland, as given at the end of the common edition of the Bible, in the appendix to the second table of measures, &c., the first one thousand cubits is the length of each of the sides of a square inclosing suburban land, and the two thousand cubits mentioned in the next verse merely denote two sides of the square, and that there are four of these squares, one on each side of the Levitical cities.

Leydecker is of the same opinion as Maimonides; or rather, he implicitly follows his opinion. "Præterea urbibus Levitarum erant suburbia, quæ in circuitu mille cubitis distabant a monibus, quibus addebantur ad bis mille cubitos loca pro vineis et agris." (De Repub. Heb. lib. vị. c. 3, p. 347.)

By estimating the quantity of land contained in figures of the several dimensions assigned, by the different opinions, to the suburbs of the Levitical cities, we may be enabled to ascertain, pretty nearly, which interpretation is the true one. Let us first examine the opinion of Le Clerc.

According to him, the figure inclosing both city and suburbs is a square of two thousand cubits each side. Assuming the cubit to be 21.888 inches, the measure of the Egyptian cubit, which, no doubt, the Israelites adopted, the quantity of land comprehended is 305a. 2r. 1p.; and, according to Le Clerc, the city occupied a circle whose diameter was two thousand cubits, and this contains 239a. 3r. 31 p.; this being deducted from the former quantity leaves about sixty-five acres and a half as the suburbs of a Levitical city. But this supposes that

the city can never exceed the measure of two thousand cubits in diameter; otherwise, the city itself would extend beyond the line of its own suburbs. Or, if the diameter of the city were just two thousand cubits, the circumference of the city would, in four points, touch the utmost boundary of the suburbs. It has been calculated that, on an average, each family of the Israelites, in the distribution of the land, would obtain about twenty-one acres; but the Levites were to have no portion thus allotted; they were to derive their maintenance chiefly from tithes and offerings; the quantity of land, therefore, appropriated to them in the suburbs would be much smaller than that assigned to each family of the other tribes on the average. Of the Levites there were 23,000 males, from a month old and upward; and allowing an equal number of females, the whole would be 46,000; and there being 48 Levitical cities, we may assign about 958 individuals, Levites, to each Levitical city, about 191 families, allowing five to a family; among whom there are, according to Le Clerc, only 65 acres of land to be distributed; that is, about one-third of an acre to each family for garden and to feed their cattle. I deem it unnecessary to say any thing more of the incorrectness of Le Clerc's interpretation.

Let us now examine the interpretation of Maimonides. He says, the suburbs extended three thousand cubits on all sides from the city; and allowing the city to occupy a figure of one thousand cubits in diameter, the boundary of the suburbs would be, on each side, seven thousand cubits; the land comprehended would be 3,742 acres; deducting from this the ground occupied by the city, one thousand cubits each side, which amounts to about 76 acres, leaves 3,666 to be divided among 191 families; and this allows nearly twenty acres to each Levitical family, nearly as much as was assigned to each family among the other tribes. This clearly demonstrates the incorrectness of this interpretation of Maimonides. But if the city exceeded the measure which is assumed in the above estimate, the land in the suburbs would increase, so as to allow more to each of the Levitical families than to the families of the other tribes, which would be absurd.

Let us now examine the statement of Josephus, which, we should remember, agrees with that of the Septuagint interpreters, who lived at a time when they could know the extent

« PreviousContinue »