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Title: Woman in Sacred History - A Series of Sketches Drawn from Scriptural, Historical, - and Legendary Sources
Author: Stowe, Harriet Beecher
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Mary the Mother of our Lord]




  Illustrated with Sixteen Chromo-Lithographs,


  [Illustration: logo]


  Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873,
  in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.



























The notable characters among the women of Bible history present so
attractive and variable a theme for pictorial representation, that
they have been several times grouped in book form, both in Europe
and America, within the past twenty years. The freshness of the
present publication, therefore, consists not in the subject but in
its mode of treatment.

In seeking material to illustrate Mrs. Stowe's interesting sketches,
two purposes have been kept in view: first, the securing of a
series of pictures which, by a judicious selection among different
schools and epochs of art, might give a more original and less
conventional presentation of the characters than could be had were
all the illustrations conceived by the same mind, or executed
by the same hand; and, secondly, the choice of such pictorial
subjects as were well adapted to reproduction in colors, so as to
represent as perfectly as possible, by the rapidly maturing art of
chromo-lithography, the real ideas of the painters. The guiding
principles of selection have been _aptness of design_ and a rich
_variety of effect_.

It will be seen that, in pursuit of this purpose, some pictures
of world-wide renown have been here reproduced in whole or in
part,--the desirable being always limited by the practicable;
examples of these are the beautiful "Magdalen" of BATONI, and the
main portion of that most wonderful of all pictures, the "Sistine
Madonna" of RAPHAEL. The only possible excuse for mutilating this
glorious design is the desire to give some slight idea of its
color-effect to thousands who have known it only through engravings,
and who could never know it otherwise, unless in some such way as
this. Among our illustrations are copies of celebrated paintings
of more modern date, by the great painters of France, Germany, and
England;--such as PAUL DELAROCHE'S graceful scene on the Nile, where
Miriam watches little Moses, exposed in the bullrushes; HORACE
VERNET'S terrible "Judith"; BAADER'S remorseless "Delilah"; and
GOODALL'S lovely picture of "Mary, the Mother of Our Lord," with
her offering of two doves in the Temple. Of still another class
are those which have been adapted, because of their appositeness,
to illustrate subjects which they were not originally painted
for: of these, LANDELLE'S "Fellah Woman," well shows the Oriental
style and youthful sweetness of "Rebekah" at the fountain, and the
"Dancing-Girl" of VERNET-LECOMTE may fairly represent the costume
and beauty of Salome, the "Daughter of Herodias." In addition to
these varieties, the sixteen plates include several which were
designed and painted expressly for this work. One of the most
pleasing is "Ruth," by DEVEDEUX of Paris. It is accounted also a
peculiar advantage that the "Queen Esther" and the "Martha and
Mary"--two very striking and effective pictures--are from the studio
of BOULANGER, who shares with Gérome the highest eminence as a
delineator of the peculiar and beautiful features of the Orient.

In order to give some idea of the care taken in the reproduction of
these subjects, it may be stated that (except where the original
paintings themselves were accessible) in every case an accurate copy
in oils was painted by a skillful artist, and this, together with
photographs from the original pictures, the best impressions of
the best engravings, etc., formed the basis on which Jehenne, the
artist-lithographer, founded his conscientious work. Each subject
is produced by a series of color-printings, the average number of
stones to each picture being fifteen. The delicacy and difficulty of
this art may be the better appreciated by remembering that, while
the painter has always at hand his palette, with its numberless
pigments of color and shades of color, for the patient elaboration
of the picture, the lithographer has to analyze the work which
has thus grown up by infinite touches under the painter's brush,
and must study to concentrate as much as possible the effects of
each single color in a single stone,--which can print or touch the
picture but once. The final effect is of course produced by the
superposition of colors and shades of color one upon another; but
the art which can thus transfer the painter's minute and painful
toil to the breadth and rapidity of mechanical reproduction, making
accessible to thousands the designs in form and ideas in color of
the creating genius, instead of leaving them imprisoned in the
single copy which only the rich purchaser may possess,--this is also
a true art, and claims the recognition of true lovers of art.

Below is given a descriptive list of the subjects, pictures, and
artists of the illustrations in the present publication.

No. I. _Mary, the Mother of our Lord._ FRED. GOODALL (England, b.

This presentation of the Virgin, going into the temple with her
offering of two doves, is one of the most delicate and beautiful
of the entire series. The exceeding simplicity of design and of
coloring gives it an effect of purity, while the face is tender,
thoughtful, and in every way attractive. The softness of the drapery
and the gentle gradations of light are especial features.

II. _Hagar and Ishmael._ CHRISTIAN KOEHLER (Werben, Germany, b.
1809; d. 1861).

This picture is strong and expressive rather than attractive. The
depth of the greenish-blue sky and the barrenness of the indicated
landscape give an intensity to the desolateness of the mother,
clasping the form of her sturdy and unconscious little outcast son.
The original painting is now in the Civic Gallery, at Düsseldorf, on
the Rhine. It was painted at Leinwald in 1843.

III. _Rebekah._ CHARLES LANDELLE (Laval, France, b. 1815).

This is one of those charming subjects which the enterprise and
graceful art of the French have brought from the Orient. The
original painting (1866) is entitled "Femme Fellah," and represents
one of the women of the Nubian tribe of Fellahs, resting at the well
before taking up the earthen jar which she has just filled with
water. This lovely face and figure may well be used to illustrate
the maidenly grace of "Rebekah at the Fountain."

IV. _Leah and Rachel._ JEAN FRANÇOIS PORTAËLS (Vilvorde, Belgium, b.

Leah the "tender-eyed" became the wife of Jacob seven years before
he attained the hand of his chosen love, Rachel the "beautiful." And
with this, the picture must tell its own story.

V. _Miriam and Moses._ PAUL DELAROCHE (France, b. 1797; d. 1856).

This is one of the most famous designs of one of the most fertile
artists of France. The original painting has been often engraved,
but its freshness and beauty are best shown by reproducing its soft
and delicate coloring. The careful sister, watching through the
rushes, and the indistinct form of the mother on the bank above, are
in exquisite contrast to the quietude of the babe in his basket on
the waters of the placid Nile.

VI. _Deborah._ CHARLES LANDELLE (Laval, France, b. 1815).

This is one of the adaptations spoken of above. The original
painting represents Velleda, the Prophetess of the Gallic Druids.
The grand form, noble face, and inspired attitude of the original
figure have been scrupulously retained, the background only being
somewhat modified, the better to suggest the _locale_ of the
Israelitish prophetess.

VII. _Delilah._ LOUIS MARIE BAADER (Lannion, France).

A most ungrateful and ungracious subject, but one portrayed with
singular strength and concentration of purpose, amid a studious
interest of detail, in this effective picture. The cold, hard look
of the face, and the unrelenting will expressed by the slender but
steady arm and the supporting hand, half buried in the cushion,
instantly attract attention, while the harmonious variety of color
in the accessory draperies and furniture of the strange apartment
supports the interest of the central figure without detracting from
its power.

VIII. _Jephtha's Daughter._ HUGUES MERLE. (St. Marcelin, France).

This illustration of the stern chieftain's daughter among the
mountains with her companions, bewailing the desolate fate to which
she was devoted, is an adaptation from one of MERLE'S beautiful
pictures. This artist is noted for his success in depicting young
girls and children. The general expression of face, figure, and
surroundings, mark the aptness of this design for its present use.

IX. _Ruth._ LOUIS DEVEDEUX (Paris, France).

The author of this charming fancy of the gentle and faithful
Moabite, which was painted for this volume, is one of the rising and
already recognized painters of France, having taken several medals
under the severe critical awards of the French annual _Salon_. The
tender grace and modesty of both face and figure are enhanced by the
delicacy of the color.

b. 1815).

Having just returned from one of his trips to the Orient, whither
he had gone with his brilliant _confrère_ GÉROME, to refill his
portfolio with new faces and costumes and scenes, to be wrought up
into new pictures, MONS. BOULANGER was fortunately able to respond
promptly to the demand for two original designs and paintings for
the present work. "Queen Esther" is one of these. The proud and
serene beauty of the face, the dignity of the form and bearing, and
the simple richness of the costume make this a notable picture. And,
although the background is devoid of everything save the sombre
shadow which gives relief to the figure, the imagination easily
supplies the haughty king, the throng of courtiers, and the crowd of
suppliant Jews behind their queen.

XI. _Judith._ HORACE VERNET (France, b. 1789; d. 1863).

Artists have always been fond of this strong subject, but none have
so well succeeded in rendering the beauty of the intrepid Jewess,
combined with her resolution and force of character. The horror of
the old woman, who holds the dreadful basket to receive the head,
is finely contrasted with the superb sternness of Judith's face and
action, just as the illuminated, gorgeous tapestry of the tyrant's
tent is rebuked by the quiet sky and the steady shining of the
stars. It is a grand composition, and most effective in coloring.

XII. _The Sistine Madonna._ RAPHAEL SANZIO (Urbino, Italy, b. 1483;
d. 1520).

Originally painted as an altar-piece for the Sistine Chapel, in the
Vatican at Rome (whence its name), this grand picture is now in the
Dresden Gallery. The painting has, below the Virgin's figure, to
the right and left, the kneeling figures of Saint Barbara and Pope
Gregory the Sixth, under whose reign both the chapel and the picture
were produced. The halo about the Virgin and Infant is filled with
indistinct cherub faces, and at the very bottom, apart from the
main design, are the two cherubs which appear in the plate. The
original design is necessarily shorn of many of these details in the
combination given, but the more important portions of the painting
are well shown.

XIII. _The Daughter of Herodias._ EMIL VERNET-LECOMTE (Paris,
France, b. 1821).

As stated in the remarks prefatory to this list, the plate taken
to represent the Oriental type of beauty, and one at least of the
costumes of her class, is LECOMTE'S "L'Almée" (Dancing-Girl).
Travelers in the East find by investigation so little change of
dress or manners, boats, houses, tools, instruments, or modes of
life in any form, from those of twenty centuries ago, that we need
not go far astray in taking a dancing-girl of the present day in
that ancient land, to suggest the dress which the daughter of
Herodias possibly assumed, in order to please the puissant king
and gain by his favor the request of her revengeful mother. The
plate presents also, from the simple view-point of art, a pleasing
picture. (Original painted in 1866.)

XIV. _The Woman of Samaria._ EMIL VERNET-LECOMTE (Paris, France, b.

This is another of that artist's admirable Eastern subjects, and
has been deemed a singularly apposite illustration of the woman at
the well, to whom Jesus talked. The easy poise of the figure, the
steadiness of the head and right hand, and the strength of the face,
indicate the self-reliance and confidence of a woman who had seen
much of life; while the listless forgetfulness of the left hand,
holding the water-jar, and the earnest gaze of the eyes show the
awakened mind and fixed attention of the listener.

XV. _Mary Magdalene._ POMPEO GIROLAMO BATONI (Lucca, Italy, b. 1708;
d. 1781).

This beautiful design and admirable piece of color is one of the
pictures that the world keeps alive in constant reproduction. It
is one of the few paintings which fairly compete with the masters
of the sixteenth century on their own ground; for, though it is a
picture of the eighteenth century, painted during the decadence of
European, and especially of Italian art, it is very much after the
style of the older artists, and is brought into direct comparison
with the similar expression of this subject by Correggio, in the
same gallery at Dresden. Every student knows that it easily holds
its own in the competition, if, indeed, it does not bear away the

France, b. 1815).

Of the entire list of illustrations taken from modern paintings,
perhaps no one is more thoroughly original and effective than this;
the hand of a master is to be seen in every line. The rich beauty
and spirited action of Martha, the serene repose of Mary's figure,
the sweetness of her face and the quietude of her look under the
fiery reproaches of the elder sister, the characteristic contrast
of color in the dresses of the two, the suggested coolness of the
vine-embowered porch, and the general harmony of line, design, and
color, are well worthy of observation. The fact that it was designed
for this volume by the great Orientalist gives to the picture an
especial value and interest.



The object of the following pages will be to show, in a series of
biographical sketches, a history of WOMANHOOD UNDER DIVINE CULTURE,
tending toward the development of that high ideal of woman which we
find in modern Christian countries.

All the characters comprised in these sketches belong to one
nationality. They are of that mysterious and ancient race whose
records begin with the dawn of history; who, for centuries, have
been sifted like seed through all the nations of the earth, without
losing either their national spirit or their wonderful physical and
mental vigor.

By this nation the Scriptures, which we reverence, were written and
preserved. From it came all the precepts and teachings by which our
lives are guided in things highest and holiest; from it came He who
is at once the highest Ideal of human perfection and the clearest
revelation of the Divine.

We are taught that the Creator revealed himself to man, not at
once, but by a _system_ progressively developing from age to age.
Selecting one man, he made of his posterity a sacerdotal nation,
through which should gradually unfold a religious literature, and
from which should come a succession of religious teachers, and the
final development, through Jesus, of a religion whose ultimate
triumphs should bring complete blessedness to the race.

In tracing the Bible narrative from the beginning, it is interesting
to mark the effect of this great movement in its relation to women.
The characters we have selected will be arranged for this purpose
in a series, under the following divisions:--


We understand by the patriarchal period the interval between the
calling of Abraham and the public mission of Moses. The pictures of
life at this time are interesting, because they give the clearest
idea of what we may call the raw material on which the educational
system of the Divine Being began to work. We find here a state of
society the elements of which are in some respects peculiarly simple
and healthful, and in others exhibiting the imperfections of the
earth's childhood. Family affection appears to be the strongest
force in it, yet it is family affection with the defects of an
untaught, untrained morality. Polygamy, with its well-known evils,
was universal in the world. Society was broken into roving tribes,
and life was a constant battle, in which artifice and deception were
the only refuge of the quiet and peace-loving spirit. Even within
the bounds of the family, we continually find fraud, artifice, and
deception. Men and women, in that age of the world, seem to have
practiced deceit and spoken lies, as children do, from immaturity
and want of deep reflection. A certain childhood of nature, however,
is the redeeming charm in all these pictures. There is an honest
simplicity in the narrative, which refreshes us like the talk of

We have been so long in the habit of hearing the Bible read in
solemn, measured tones, in the hush of churches, that we are apt to
forget that these men and women were really flesh and blood, of the
same human nature with ourselves. A factitious solemnity invests
a Bible name, and some good people seem to feel embarassed by the
obligation to justify all the proceedings of patriarchs and prophets
by the advanced rules of Christian morality. In this respect, the
modern fashion of treating the personages of sacred story with the
same freedom of inquiry as the characters of any other history has
its advantages. It takes them out of a false, unnatural light,
where they lose all hold on our sympathies, and brings them before
us as real human beings. Read in this way, the ancient sacred
history is the purest naturalism, under the benevolent guidance of
the watchful Father of Nations.

Pascal very wisely says, "The whole succession of men during the
long course of ages ought to be considered as a single man, who
exists and learns from age to age." Considered in this light, it
is no more difficult to conceive of an infinite Father tolerating
an imperfect childhood of morals in the whole human race, than in
each individual of that race. The patriarchs are to be viewed as
the first pupils in the great training-school whence the world's
teachers in morals were to come, and they are shown to us in all
the crudity of early pupilage. The great virtue of which they
are presented as the pattern is the virtue of the child and the

Faith, the only true reason for weak and undeveloped natures,
was theirs, and as the apostle says, "it was counted to them for
righteousness." However imperfect and uncultured one may be, if he
has implicit trust in an infallible teacher, he is in the way of all

The faith of which Abraham is presented as the example is not the
blind, ignorant superstition of the savage. Not a fetish, not a
selfish trust in a Patron Deity for securing personal advantages,
but an enlightened, boundless trust in the Supreme power, wisdom,
and rectitude. "The Judge of all the earth will _do right_." In
this belief, Abraham trusts him absolutely. To him he is willing to
surrender the deepest and dearest hopes of his life, and sacrifice
even the son in whom center all the nerves of joy and hope,
"accounting," as the Apostle tells us, "that God was able to raise
him from the dead."

Nor was this faith bounded by the horizon of this life. We are
informed by the Apostle Paul, who certainly well understood the
traditions of his nation, that Abraham looked forward to the same
heavenly home which cheers the heart of the Christian. "By faith
Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should
after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not
knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of
promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac
and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: _for he looked
for a city that hath foundations_, whose builder and maker is God.
They--the patriarchs--desired a better country, even an heavenly:
wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God." (Heb. xi.
8-10, 16.)

We are further told that this faith passed as a legacy through the
patriarchal families to the time of Moses, and that the inspiring
motive of his life was the invisible God and the future world beyond
the grave. "By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to
be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer
affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of
sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches
than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompense
of reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of
the great king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible."
(Heb. xi. 24-27.) It has been blindly asserted that the hope of a
future life was no part of the working force in the lives of these
ancient patriarchs. Certainly, no one ever sacrificed more brilliant
prospects of things seen and temporal, for the sake of things unseen
and eternal, than Moses.

Finally, one remarkable characteristic of all these old patriarchs
was the warmth of their affections. Differing in degree as to
moral worth, they were all _affectionate_ men. So, after all that
Christianity has done for us, after all the world's growth and
progress, we find no pictures of love in family life more delicate
and tender than are given in these patriarchal stories. No husband
could be more loyally devoted to a wife than Abraham; no lover
exhibit less of the eagerness of selfish passion and more of
enduring devotion than Jacob, who counted seven years of servitude
as nothing, for the love he bare his Rachael; and, for a picture of
parental tenderness, the story of Joseph stands alone and unequalled
in human literature.

In the patriarchal families, as here given, women seem to have
reigned as queens of the interior. Even when polygamy was
practiced, the monogamic affection was still predominant. In the
case of Abraham and Jacob, it appears to have been from no wandering
of the affections, but from a desire of offspring, or the tyranny of
custom, that a second wife was imposed.

Female chastity was jealously guarded. When a young prince seduced
Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, although offering honorable marriage,
with any amount of dowry, the vengeance of the brothers could only
be appeased by blood; and the history of Joseph shows that purity
was regarded as a virtue in man as well as in woman. Such, then,
was the patriarchal stock,--the seed-form of the great and chosen
nation. Let us now glance at the influences which nourished it
through the grand growth of the prophetic or national period, up to
the time of its consummate blossom and fruit in the Christian era.

Moses was the great lawgiver to mold this people into a nation.
His institutes formed a race of men whose vital force has outlived
conquest, persecution, dispersion, and every possible cause
which could operate to destroy a nationality; so that, even to
our time, talent and genius spring forth from the unwasted vigor
of these sons and daughters of Abraham. The remarkable vigor
and vitality of the Jewish race, their power of adaptation to
every climate, and of bearing up under the most oppressive and
disadvantageous circumstances, have attracted the attention of the
French government, and two successive commissions of inquiry, with
intervals of three or four years between, have been instituted, "on
the causes of the health and longevity of the Jewish race."

In the "Israelite" of February 9, 1866, we have, on this subject,
the report of M. Legoyt, chief of a division of the ministry of
commerce and public works, one of the first statisticians of France.
He says: "We have seen that all the documents put together are
affirmative of an exceptional vitality of the Jews. How can this
phenomenon be explained? Dietrici, after having demonstrated its
existence in Prussia, thinks it is to be attributed to greater
temperance, a better regulated life, and purer morals. This is
likewise the opinion of Drs. Neufville, Glatter, and Meyer. Cases
of drunkenness, says Dietrici, frequent among the Christians, occur
very rarely among the Jews. This regularity and discipline, and
greater self-control, of Jewish life is confirmed by the criminal
statistics of Prussia, which show fewer Jews condemned for crime."

M. Legoyt goes on to account for this longevity and exceptional
vitality of the Jews by the facts of their family life: that early
marriages are more common; that great care is taken to provide for
the exigencies of marriage; that there are fewer children born, and
thus they are better cared for; that family feeling is more strongly
developed than in other races; that the Jewish mother is the nurse
of her own infant, and that great care and tenderness are bestowed
on young children.

It is evident that the sanitary prescriptions of the Mosaic law
have an important bearing on the health. If we examine these laws
of Moses, we shall find that they consist largely in dietetic and
sanitary regulations, in directions for detecting those diseases
which vitiate the blood, and removing the subjects of them from
contact with their fellows.

But the greatest peculiarity of the institutes of Moses is their
care of family life. They differed from the laws of all other
ancient nations by making the family the central point of the state.
In Rome and Greece, and in antiquity generally, the ruling purpose
was war and conquest. War was the normal condition of the ancient
world. The state was for the most part a camp under martial law, and
the interests of the family fared hardly. The laws of Moses, on the
contrary, contemplated a peaceful community of land-holders, devoted
to agriculture and domestic life. The land of Canaan was divided
into homesteads; the homestead was inalienable in families, and
could be sold only for fifty years, when it reverted again to the
original heirs. All these regulations gave a quality of stability
and perpetuity to the family. We have also some striking laws which
show how, when brought into immediate comparison, family life is
always considered the first; for instance, see Deuteronomy xxiv.
5: "When a man hath taken a new wife he shall not go out to war,
neither shall he be charged with any business; but he shall be free
at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken."
What can more strongly show the delicate care of woman, and the high
regard paid to the family, than this? It was more important to be a
good husband and make his wife happy than to win military glory or
perform public service of any kind.

The same regard for family life is shown, in placing the father and
the mother as joint objects of honor and veneration, in the Ten
Commandments: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may
be long in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee." Among the
Greeks, the wife was a nonentity, living in the seclusion of the
women's apartments, and never associated publicly with her husband
as an equal. In Rome, the father was all in all in the family, and
held the sole power of life and death over his wife and children.
Among the Jews, the wife was the co-equal queen of the home, and was
equally honored and obeyed with her husband. Lest there should be
any doubt as to the position of the mother, the command is solemnly
reiterated, and the mother placed first in order: "And the Lord
spake to Moses, speak unto the children of Israel and say unto them,
Ye shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. Ye shall fear
every man his MOTHER and his father. I am the Lord." (Lev. xix.
3.) How solemn is the halo of exaltation around the mother in this
passage, opened with all the authority of God,--calling to highest
holiness, and then exalting the mother and the father as, next to
God, objects of reverence!

Family government was backed by all the authority of the state,
but the power of life and death was not left in the parents'
hands. If a son proved stubborn and rebellious, utterly refusing
domestic discipline, then the father and the mother were to unite
in bringing him before the civil magistrates, who condemned him to
death. But the _mother_ must appear and testify, before the legal
act was accomplished, and thus the power of restraining the stronger
passions of the man was left with her.

The laws of Moses also teach a degree of delicacy and consideration,
in the treatment of women taken captives in war, that was
unparalleled in those ages. With one consent, in all other ancient
nations, the captive woman was a slave, with no protection for
chastity. Compare with this the spirit of the law of Moses: "If
thou seest among thy captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire
unto her that thou wouldst have her to wife, then thou shalt bring
her to thy house, and she shall remain in thy house and bewail her
father and mother a full month; and after that thou shalt go in
unto her and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife." Here is
consideration, regard to womanly feeling, and an opportunity for
seeking the affection of the captive by kindness. The law adds,
furthermore, that if the man change his mind, and do not wish to
marry her after this time for closer acquaintance, then he shall
give her her liberty, and allow her to go where she pleases: "Thou
shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise
of her, because thou hast humbled her."

The laws of Moses did not forbid polygamy, but they secured to the
secondary wives such respect and attention as made the maintenance
of many of them a matter of serious difficulty. Everywhere we find
Moses interposing some guard to the helplessness of the woman,
softening and moderating the harsh customs of ancient society in
her favor. Men were not allowed to hold women-servants merely for
the gratification of a temporary passion, without assuming the
obligations of a husband. Thus we find the following restraint on
the custom of buying a handmaid or concubine: "If a man sell his
daughter to be a maid-servant, she shall not go out to work as
the men-servants do, and, if she please not her master which hath
betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed; he
shall have no power to sell her unto a stranger, seeing he hath
dealt deceitfully with her. And if he have betrothed her to his
son, he shall deal with her as a daughter. And if he take another
wife, her food and her raiment, and her duty of marriage shall he
not diminish. And if he do not these three things unto her, then
shall she go out free without money." (Ex. xxi. 7.) This law, in
fact, gave to every concubine the rights and immunities of a legal
wife, and in default of its provisions she recovered her liberty.
Thus, also, we find a man is forbidden to take two sisters to wife,
and the feelings of the first wife are expressly mentioned as the
reason: "Thou shalt not take unto thy wife her sister to vex her
during her lifetime."

In the same manner it was forbidden to allow personal favoritism
to influence the legal rights of succession belonging to children
of different wives. (Deut. xxi. 15.) "If a man have two wives, one
beloved and the other hated, and they have both borne him children,
and if the firstborn son be hers that is hated, then, when he
maketh his sons to inherit, he may not make the son of the beloved
firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the

If a man slandered the chastity of his wife before marriage, she
or her relations had a right to bring him before a tribunal of the
elders, and, failing to substantiate his accusations, he was heavily
fined and the right of divorce taken from him.

By thus hedging in polygamy with the restraints of serious
obligations and duties, and making every concubine a wife, entitled
to claim all the privileges of a wife, Moses prepared the way for
its gradual extinction. For since it could not be a mere temporary
connection involving no duty on the man's part, since he could
not sell or make merchandise of the slave when he was tired of
her, since the children had a legal claim to support,--it became a
serious matter to increase the number of wives. The kings of Israel
were expressly forbidden to multiply wives; and the disobedience
of Solomon, who followed the custom of Oriental sovereigns, is
mentioned with special reprobation, as calling down the judgments of
God upon his house.

The result of all this was, that in the course of time polygamy fell
into disuse among the Jews; and, after the Babylonian captivity,
when a more strenuous observance of the laws of Moses was enforced,
it almost entirely ceased.[1] In the time of Christ and the
Apostles, the Jews had become substantially a monogamic nation.

  [1] Michaelis, Laws of Moses, III. 5, § 95.

Another peculiarity in the laws of Moses is the equality of the
treatment of man and woman. Among other nations, adultery was
punished severely in the wife, and lightly, if at all, in the
husband. According to the Jewish law, it was punished by the death
of both parties. If a man seduced a girl, he was obliged to marry
her; and forcible violation was punished by death.

While in many other nations, prostitution, in one form or other,
formed part of the services of the temple and the revenues of the
state, it was enacted that the wages of such iniquity should not
be received into the treasury of the Lord; and, finally, it was
enjoined that there should be no prostitute among the daughters of
Israel. (Deut. xxiii. 17, 18.)

In all that relates to the details of family life, the laws of Moses
required great temperance and government of the passions; and,
undoubtedly, these various restraints and religious barriers raised
by the ceremonial law around the wife and mother are one great
reason of the vigor of the Jewish women and the uncorrupted vitality
of the race.

The law of Moses on divorce, though expressly spoken of by Christ
as only a concession or adaptation to a low state of society, still
was, in its day, on the side of protection to women. A man could
not put his wife out of doors at any caprice of changing passion: a
legal formality was required, which would, in those times, require
the intervention of a Levite to secure the correctness of the
instrument. This would bring the matter under the cognizance of
legal authority, and tend to check the rash exercise of the right
by the husband. The final result of all this legislation, enforced
from age to age by Divine judgments, and by the warning voices of
successive prophets, was, that the Jewish race, instead of sinking
into licentiousness, and losing stamina and vigor, as all the other
ancient nations did, became essentially a chaste and vigorous
people, and is so to this day.

The comparison of the literature of any ancient nation with that of
the Jews strikingly demonstrates this. The uncleanness and obscenity
of much of the Greek and Roman literature is in wonderful contrast
to the Jewish writings in the Bible and Apocrypha, where vice is
never made either ludicrous or attractive, but mentioned only with
horror and reprobation.

If we consider now the variety, the elevation, and the number of
female characters in sacred history, and look to the corresponding
records of other nations, we shall see the results of this culture
of women. The nobler, the heroic elements were developed among the
Jewish women by the sacredness and respect which attached to family
life. The veneration which surrounded motherhood, and the mystic
tradition coming down through the ages that some Judæan mother
should give birth to the great Saviour and Regenerator of mankind,
consecrated family life with a devout poetry of emotion. Every
cradle was hallowed by the thought of that blessed child who should
be the hope of the world.

Another cause of elevation of character among Jewish women was their
equal liability to receive the prophetic impulse. A prophet was,
by virtue of his inspiration, a public teacher, and the leader of
the nation,--kings and magistrates listened to his voice; and this
crowning glory was from time to time bestowed on women.

We are informed in 2 Kings xxii. 14, that in the reign of King
Josiah, when a crisis of great importance arose with respect to
the destiny of the nation, the king sent a deputation of the chief
priests and scribes to inquire of the word of the Lord from Huldah
the prophetess, and that they received her word as the highest
authority. This was while the prophet Jeremiah was yet a young man.

The prophetess was always a poetess, and some of the earliest
records of female poetry in the world are of this kind. A lofty
enthusiasm of patriotism also distinguishes the Jewish women, and
in more than one case in the following sketches we shall see them
the deliverers of their country. Corresponding to these noble women
of sacred history, what examples have we in polished Greece? The
only women who were allowed mental culture--who studied, wrote, and
enjoyed the society of philosophers and of learned men--were the
courtesans. For chaste wives and mothers there was no career and no

In the Roman state we see the influence upon woman of a graver style
of manhood and a more equal liberty in the customs of society. In
Rome there were sacred women, devoted to religion, and venerated
accordingly. They differed, however, from the inspired women of
Jewish history in being entirely removed from the experiences of
family life. The vestal virgins were bound by cruel penalties
to a life of celibacy. So far as we know, there is not a Jewish
prophetess who is not also a wife, and the motherly character is
put forward as constituting a claim to fitness in public life. "I,
Deborah, arose a mother in Israel." That pure ideal of a sacred
woman springing from the bosom of the family, at once wife, mother,
poetess, leader, inspirer, prophetess, is peculiar to sacred



One woman in the Christian dispensation has received a special
crown of honor. Sarah, the wife of Abraham, mother of the Jewish
nation, is to this day an object of traditional respect and homage
in the Christian Church. Her name occurs in the marriage service as
an example for the Christian wife, who is exhorted to meekness and
obedience by St. Peter, "Even as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him
lord; whose daughters ye are, so long as ye do well, and are not
subject to a slavish fear."

In turning to the narrative of the Old Testament, however, we
are led to feel that in setting Sarah before wives as a model
of conjugal behavior, no very alarming amount of subjection or
submission is implied.

The name Sarah means "princess"; and from the Bible story we
infer that, crowned with the power of eminent beauty, and fully
understanding the sovereignty it gave her over man, Sarah was
virtually empress and mistress of the man she called "lord." She
was a woman who understood herself and him, and was too wise to
dispute the title when she possessed the reality of sway; and while
she called Abraham "lord," it is quite apparent from certain little
dramatic incidents that she expected him to use his authority in the
line of her wishes.

In going back to these Old Testament stories, one feels a ceaseless
admiration of the artless simplicity of the primitive period of
which they are the only memorial. The dew of earth's early morning
lies on it, sparkling and undried; and the men and women speak out
their hearts with the simplicity of little children.

In Abraham we see the man whom God designed to be the father of
a great sacerdotal nation; through whom, in the fullness of time,
should come the most perfect revelation of himself to man, by Jesus
Christ. In choosing the man to found such a nation, the Divine
Being rejected the stormy and forcible characters which command
the admiration of rude men in early ages, and chose one of gentler

Abraham was distinguished for a loving heart, a tender domestic
nature, great reverence, patience, and fidelity, a childlike
simplicity of faith, and a dignified self-possession. Yet he was not
deficient in energy or courage when the event called for them. When
the warring tribes of the neighborhood had swept his kinsman, Lot,
into captivity, Abraham came promptly to the rescue, and, with his
three hundred trained servants, pursued, vanquished, and rescued.
Though he loved not battle, when roused for a good cause he fought
to some purpose.

Over the heart of such a man, a beautiful, queenly woman held
despotic sway. Traveling with her into the dominions of foreign
princes, he is possessed by one harassing fear. The beauty of this
woman,--will it not draw the admiration of marauding powers? And
shall I not be murdered, or have her torn from me? And so, twice,
Abraham resorts to the stratagem of concealing their real relation,
and speaking of her as his sister. The Rabbinic traditions elaborate
this story with much splendor of imagery. According to them, Abraham
being obliged by famine to sojourn in Egypt, rested some days by the
river Nile; and as he and Sarah walked by the banks of the river,
and he beheld her wonderful beauty reflected in the water, he was
overwhelmed with fear lest she should be taken from him, or that he
should be slain for her sake. So he persuaded her to pass as his
sister; for, as he says, "she was the daughter of my father, but
not of my mother." The legend goes on to say, that, as a further
precaution, he had her placed in a chest to cross the frontier; and
when the custom-house officers met them, he offered to pay for the
box whatever they might ask, to pass it free.

"Does it contain silks?" asked the officers.

"I will pay the tenth as of silk," he replied.

"Does it contain silver?" they inquired.

"I will pay for it as silver," answered Abraham.

"Nay, then, it must contain gold."

"I will pay for it as gold."

"May be it contains most costly gems."

"I will pay for it as gems," he persisted.

In the struggle the box was broken open, and in it was seated a
beautiful woman whose countenance illumined all Egypt. The news
reached the ears of Pharaoh, and he sent and took her.

In comparing these Rabinnic traditions with the Bible, one is
immediately struck with the difference in quality,--the dignified
simplicity of the sacred narrative contrasts forcibly with the
fantastic elaborations of tradition.

The Rabbinic and Alcoranic stories are valuable, however, as showing
how profound an impression the personality of these characters had
left on mankind. The great characters of the Biblical story, though
in themselves simple, seemed, like the sun, to raise around them
many-colored and vaporous clouds of myth and story. The warmth of
their humanity kept them enwreathed in a changing mist of human

The falsehoods which Abraham tells are to be estimated not by the
modern, but by the ancient standard. In the earlier days of the
world, when physical force ruled, when the earth was covered with
warring tribes, skill in deception was counted as one of the forms
of wisdom. "The crafty Ulysses" is spoken of with honor through the
"Odyssey" for his skill in dissembling; and the Lacedemonian youth
were punished, not for stealing or lying, but for performing these
necessary operations in a bungling, unskillful manner.

In a day when it was rather a matter of course for a prince to help
himself to a handsome woman wherever he could find her, and kill
her husband if he made any objections, a weaker party entering the
dominions of a powerful prince was under the laws of war.

In our nineteenth century we have not yet grown to such maturity
as not to consider false statements and stratagem as legitimate
war policy in dealing with an enemy. Abraham's _ruse_ is not,
therefore, so very far behind even the practice of modern
Christians. That he should have employed the same fruitless
stratagem twice, seems to show that species of infatuation on the
one subject of a beloved woman, which has been the "last infirmity"
of some otherwise strong and noble men,--wise everywhere else, but
weak there.

The Rabbinic legends represent Sarah as being an object of ardent
admiration to Pharaoh, who pressed his suit with such vehemence
that she cried to God for deliverance, and told the king that she
was a married woman. Then--according to this representation--he
sent her away with gifts, and even extended his complacency so far
as to present her with his daughter Hagar as a handmaid,--a legend
savoring more of national pride than of probability.

In the few incidents related of Sarah she does not impress us as
anything more than the beautiful princess of a nomadic tribe, with
many virtues and the failings that usually attend beauty and power.

With all her advantages of person and station, Sarah still wanted
what every woman of antiquity considered the crowning glory of
womanhood. She was childless. By an expedient common in those early
days, she gives her slave as second wife to her husband, whose child
shall be her own. The Rabbinic tradition says that up to this time
Hagar had been tenderly beloved by Sarah. The prospect, however, of
being mother to the heir of the family seems to have turned the head
of the handmaid, and broken the bonds of friendship between them.

In its usual naïve way, the Bible narrative represents Sarah as
scolding her patient husband for the results which came from
following her own advice. Thus she complains, in view of Hagar's
insolence: "My wrong be upon thee. I have given my maid unto thy
bosom, and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in
her eyes. The Lord judge between thee and me."

We see here the eager, impulsive, hot-hearted woman, accustomed to
indulgence, impatient of trouble, and perfectly certain that she is
in the right, and that the Lord himself must think so. Abraham, as a
well-bred husband, answers pacifically: "Behold, thy maid is in thy
hand, to do as pleaseth thee." And so it pleased Sarah to deal so
hardly with her maid that she fled to the wilderness.

Finally, the domestic broil adjusts itself. The Divine Father, who
watches alike over all his creatures, sends back the impetuous slave
from the wilderness, exhorted to patience, and comforted with a
promise of a future for her son.

Then comes the beautiful idyl of the three angels, who announce
the future birth of the long-desired heir. We could wish all our
readers, who may have fallen out of the way of reading the Old
Testament, to turn again to the eighteenth chapter of Genesis, and
see the simple picture of those olden days. Notice the beautiful
hospitality of reception. The Emir rushes himself to his herd to
choose the fatted calf, and commands the princess to make ready the
meal, and knead the cakes. Then comes the repast. The announcement
of the promised blessing, at which Sarah laughs in incredulous
surprise; the grave rebuke of the angels, and Sarah's white lie,
with the angel's steady answer,--are all so many characteristic
points of the story. Sarah, in all these incidents, is, with a few
touches, made as real flesh and blood as any woman in the pages
of Shakespeare,--not a saint, but an average mortal, with all the
foibles, weaknesses, and variabilities that pertain to womanhood,
and to womanhood in an early age of imperfectly developed morals.

We infer from the general drift of the story, that Sarah, like most
warm-hearted and passionate women, was, in the main, a kindly,
motherly creature, and that, when her maid returned and submitted,
she was reconciled to her. At all events, we find that the son of
the bondwoman was born and nurtured under her roof, along with her
own son Isaac. It is in keeping with our conception of Sarah, that
she should at times have overwhelmed Hagar with kindness, and helped
her through the trials of motherhood, and petted the little Ishmael
till he grew too saucy to be endured.

The Jewish mother nursed her child three years. The weaning was
made a great _fête_, and Sarah's maternal exultation at this crisis
of her life, displayed itself in festal preparations. We hear her
saying: "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will
laugh with me. Who would have said unto Abraham that Sarah should
have given children suck? for I have borne him a son in his old age."

In the height of this triumph, she saw the son of the Egyptian woman
mocking, and all the hot blood of the woman, mother, and princess
flushed up, and she said to her husband: "Cast out this bondwoman
and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my
son, even with Isaac."

We are told "the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because
of his son." But a higher power confirms the hasty, instinctive
impulse of the mother. The God of nations saw in each of these
infant boys the seed-forms of a race with a history and destiny
apart from each other, and Abraham is comforted with the thought
that a fatherly watch will be kept over both.

Last of all we come to the simple and touching announcement of the
death of this woman, so truly loved to the last. "And Sarah was a
hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the
life of Sarah. And Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron
in the land of Canaan; and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to
weep for her." It is a significant token of the magnificent physical
vigor with which that early age was endowed, that now, for the first
time, the stroke of death has fallen on the family of Abraham, and
he is forced to seek a burial-place. Sarah, the beautiful princess,
the crowned mother of a great nation, the beloved wife, is dead; and
Abraham, constant lover in age as youth, lays her away with tears.
To him she is ever young; for love confers on its object eternal

A beautiful and peculiar passage in the history describes the
particulars of the purchase of this burial-place. All that love can
give to the fairest, most beautiful, and dearest is a tomb; and
Abraham refuses to take as a gift from the nobles of the land so
sacred a spot. It must be wholly his own, bought with his own money.
The sepulchre of Machpelah, from the hour it was consecrated by the
last sleep of the mother of the tribe, became the calm and sacred
resting-place to which the eyes of children's children turned. So
Jacob, her grandson, in his dying hour, remembered it:--

"Bury me with my fathers in the cave that is in the field of Ephron
the Hittite. There they buried Abraham and Sarah his wife; there
they buried Isaac and Rebekah his wife, and there I buried Leah."

Two powerful and peculiar nations still regard this sepulchre with
veneration, and cherish with reverence the memory of Sarah the

[Illustration: HAGAR THE SLAVE]


A striking pendant to the picture of Sarah the Princess is that of
Hagar the Slave.

In the Bible narrative she is called simply Hagar the Egyptian;
and as Abraham sojourned some time in the land of Egypt, we are
to suppose that this acquisition to the family was then made.
Slavery, in the early patriarchal period, had few of the horrors
which beset it in more modern days. The condition of a slave more
nearly resembled that of the child of the house than that of a
modern servant. The slave was looked upon, in default of children,
as his master's heir, as was the case with Eliezer of Damascus, the
confidential servant of Abraham; the latter, when speaking to God
of his childless condition says: "Lo! one born in my house is mine
heir." In like manner there is a strong probability in the legend
which represents Hagar as having been the confidential handmaid of
Sarah, and treated by her with peculiar tenderness.

When the fear of being childless seized upon her, Sarah was willing
to exalt one, who was as a second self to her, to the rank of
an inferior wife, according to the customs of those early days;
intending to adopt and treat as her own the child of her handmaid.
But when the bondwoman found herself thus exalted, and when the
crowning honor of prospective motherhood was conferred upon her,
her ardent tropical blood boiled over in unseemly exultation,--"her
mistress was despised in her eyes."

Probably under the flapping curtains of the pastoral tent, as under
the silken hangings of palaces, there were to be found flatterers
and mischief-makers ready to fill the weak, credulous ear with their
suggestions. Hagar was about to become mother of the prince and heir
of the tribe; her son one day should be their chief and ruler, while
Sarah, childless and uncrowned, should sink to a secondary rank.
Why should she obey the commands of Sarah?

Our idea of Sarah is that of a warm-hearted, generous, bountiful
woman, with an intense sense of personal dignity and personal
rights,--just the woman to feel herself beyond measure outraged
by this unexpected result of what she must have looked upon as
unexampled favor. In place of a grateful, devoted creature,
identified with her interests, whose child should be to her as her
own child, she finds herself confronted with an imperious rival, who
lays claim to her place and position.

The struggle was one that has been witnessed many a time since in
families so constituted, and with such false elements. Abraham,
peace-loving and quiet, stands neutral; confident, as many men are,
of the general ability of the female sex, by inscrutable ways and
methods of their own, to find their way out of the troubles they
bring themselves into. Probably he saw wrong on both sides; yet
Hagar, as the dependent, who owed all the elevation on which she
prided herself to the good-will of her mistress, was certainly the
more in fault of the two; and so he dismisses the subject with: "Thy
maid is in thy hand; do with her as pleaseth thee."

The next we hear of the proud, hot-hearted, ungoverned slave-girl,
is her flight to the wilderness in a tumult of indignation and
grief, doubtless after bitter words and hard usage from the once
indulgent mistress. But now comes into the history the presence of
the Father God, in whose eye all human beings are equal, and who
looks down on the boiling strifes and hot passions of us all below,
as a mother on the quarrels of little children in the nursery.
For this was the world's infancy, and each character in the drama
represented a future nation for whom the All-Father was caring.

So when the violent, desolate creature had sobbed herself weary in
the lonesome desert, the story says: "And the angel of the Lord
found her by a fountain of water, in the way to Shur. And he said,
Hagar, Sarah's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go?
And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress, Sarah."

In this calm question there is a reminder of duty violated, and in
the submissive answer is an acknowledgment of that duty. The angel
calls her "Sarah's maid," and she replies, "my mistress, Sarah."

"And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress,
and submit thyself under her hands." Then, as with awe and
submission she rises to go, she is comforted with promises of
gracious tenderness. The All-Father does not take part with her in
her rebellious pride, nor in her haughty desire to usurp the station
and honors of her mistress, and yet he has sympathy for that strong,
awakening feeling of motherhood which makes the wild girl of the
desert begin at once to crave station and place on earth for the
son she is to bring into it. So the story goes on: "And the angel
of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly,
that it shall not be numbered for multitude. And the angel of the
Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a
son, and shalt call his name Ishmael, because the Lord hath heard
thy affliction. And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against
every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in
the presence of all his brethren. And she called the name of the
Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I
also here looked after him that seeth me?"

This little story is so universally and beautifully significant of
our every-day human experience, that it has almost the force of an

Who of us has not yielded to despairing grief, while flowing by us
were unnoticed sources of consolation? The angel did not _create_
the spring in the desert: it was there all the while, but Hagar was
blinded by her tears. She was not seeking God, but he was seeking
her. How often may we, all of us, in the upliftings and deliverances
of our life, say as she did, "Have I here looked after him that
seeth me?"

The narrative adds, "Wherefore the spring was called _The Well of
Him that Liveth and Seeth Me_."

That spring is still flowing by our daily path.

So, quieted and subdued and comforted, Hagar returns to her
mistress and her home, and we infer from the story, that, with
submission on her part, kindness and bounty returned on the part of
her mistress. She again becomes a member of the family. Her son is
born, and grows up for twelve years under the shadow of Abraham's
tent, and evidently, from the narrative, is fondly beloved by his
father, and indulgently treated by his foster-mother.

In an hour of confidential nearness the Divine Father announces to
Abraham that a son shall be given him by the wife of his heart.

"As for Sarah, thy wife, I will bless her, and give thee a son of
her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be
of her. Then Abraham fell upon his face and laughed, and said in
his heart: Shall a child be born to him that is an hundred years
old, and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?" Yet, in this
moment of triumphant joy, his heart yearns after Ishmael; "And
Abraham said unto God: O that Ishmael might live before thee!" And
the Divine answer is: "As for Ishmael, I have heard thee. Behold, I
have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him
exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a
great nation."

But now comes the hour long waited for, of Sarah's triumph,--the
fulfillment of the desires of her life. A generous heart would have
sympathized in her triumph. A mother who had known the blessedness
of motherhood would have rejoiced when the mistress who had done
so much for her was made so joyful. If her own son be not the heir
in succession, yet an assured future is promised to him. But the
dark woman and her wild son are of untamable elements. They can no
more become one in spirit with the patriarchal family, than oil can
mix with water. When the weaning feast is made, and all surround
the little Isaac, when the mother's heart overflows with joy, she
sees the graceless Ishmael mocking; and instantly, with a woman's
lightning prescience, she perceives the dangers, the impossibilities
of longer keeping these aliens under the same roof,--the feuds, the
jealousies, the fierce quarrels of the future.

"Cast out this bondwoman and her son," she says, with the air of
one accustomed to command and decide; "for the son of this bondwoman
shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac."

It appears that Abraham had set his heart on the boy, and had hoped
to be able to keep both in one family, and divide his inheritance
between them; but it was otherwise decreed. "And God said to
Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight, because of the lad and
because of thy bondwoman: in all that Sarah hath said unto thee,
hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. And
also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is
thy seed. And Abraham arose up early, and took bread and a bottle of
water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and sent her
away with the child; and she departed and wandered in the wilderness
of Beersheba." Probably she was on the road towards Egypt. "And the
water was all spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one
of the shrubs; and she went away and sat her down over against him
a good way off, as it were a bow-shot, for she said, Let me not see
the death of the child; and she lifted up her voice and wept."

Poor, fiery, impatient creature!--moaning like a wounded
leopardess,--apparently with no heart to remember the kindly Power
that once before helped her in her sorrows; but the story goes on:
"And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of the Lord
called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee,
Hagar? Fear not, for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he
is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thy hand; for I will
make of him a great nation. And God opened her eyes, and she saw a
well of water; and she went and filled the bottle with water and
gave the lad drink. And God was with the lad, and he grew, and
dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer. And he dwelt in the
wilderness of Paran; and his mother took him a wife out of the land
of Egypt."

In all this story, nothing impresses us so much as the absence of
all modern technical or theological ideas respecting the God who is
represented here as sowing the seed of nations with a wise foresight
of the future. As a skillful husbandman, bent on perfecting a
certain seed, separates it from all others, and grows it by itself,
so the Bible tells us that God selected a certain stock to be
trained and cultivated into the sacerdotal race, through which
should come his choicest revelations to man. Of this race in its
final outcome and perfected flowering was to spring forth Jesus,
spoken of as the BRANCH of this sacred tree. For the formation of
this race, we see a constant choice of the gentler and quieter
elements of blood and character, and the persistent rejection of
that which is wild, fierce, and ungovernable. Yet it is with no fond
partiality for the one, or antipathy to the other, that the Father
of both thus decides. The thoughtful, patient, meditative Isaac is
chosen; the wild, hot-blooded, impetuous Ishmael is rejected,--not
as in themselves better or worse, but as in relation to their
adaptation to a great purpose of future good to mankind. The ear of
the All-Father is as near to the cry of the passionate, hot-tempered
slave, and the moans of the wild, untamable boy, as to those of the
patriarch. We are told that God was with Ishmael in his wild growth
as a hunter in the desert,--his protector from harm, the guardian of
his growing family, according to the promise made to Abraham.

When the aged patriarch is gathered to his fathers at the age of a
hundred and seventy-five years, it is recorded: "And Abraham gave up
the ghost in a good old age, an old man and full of years; and his
sons, Isaac and Ishmael, buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the
field that Abraham purchased of the sons of Heth; there was Abraham
buried, and Sarah his wife."

The subsequent history of the nation which Ishmael founded, shows
that the promises of God were faithfully kept.

The Arab race has ever been a strongly marked people. They have been
worshipers of the one God, and, at one time, under the califs, rose
to a superiority in art, science, and literature beyond that of
so-called Christian nations.

The race of Ishmael is yet as vigorous and as peculiar, and as
likely to perpetuate itself, as the race of Isaac and Jacob; and as
God was near to the cries and needs of the wild mother of the race
and her wild offspring, so, doubtless, he has heard the prayer that
has gone up from many an Arab tent in the desert.

The besetting sin of a select people is the growth of a spirit of
haughty self-sufficiency among them. In time the Jews came to look
upon themselves as God's only favorites, and upon all other nations
as outcasts. It is this spirit that is rebuked by the prophet Amos
(ix.) when, denouncing the recreant children of Israel, he says,
in the name of the Lord: "Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians
unto me, O children of Israel? saith the Lord. Have not I brought up
Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor,
and the Syrians from Kir?"

There is a deep comfort in this record of God's goodness to a poor,
blinded, darkened, passionate slave-woman, nowise a model for
imitation, yet tenderly watched over and succored and cared for in
her needs. The Father unsought is ever seeking. He who said, "What
aileth thee, Hagar?" is he who, in later times, said that he came
to seek and to save the lost. Not to the saintly and the righteous
only, or mostly, but to the wayward, the sinful, the desperate, the
despairing, to those whose troubles come of their own folly and
their own sin, is the angel sent to console, to promise, to open the
blind eyes upon the fountain which is ever near us in life's desert,
though we cannot perceive it.

[Illustration: REBEKAH THE BRIDE]


In the pictures which the Bible opens to us of the domestic life
of the patriarchal ages, we have one perfectly characteristic and
beautiful idyl of a wooing and wedding, according to the customs
of those days. In its sweetness and sacred simplicity, it is a
marvelous contrast to the wedding of our modern fashionable life.

Sarah, the beautiful and beloved, has been laid away in the dust,
and Isaac, the cherished son, is now forty years old. Forty years
is yet early youth, by the slow old clock of the golden ages, when
the thread of mortal life ran out to a hundred and seventy-five or
eighty years. Abraham has nearly reached that far period, and his
sun of life is dipping downwards toward the evening horizon. He has
but one care remaining,--to settle his son Isaac in life before he
is gathered to his fathers.

The scene in which Abraham discusses the subject with his head
servant sheds a peculiar light on the domestic and family relations
of those days. "And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his
house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand
under my thigh: and I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of
heaven, and the God of the earth, that thou shalt not take a wife
unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell:
but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a
wife unto my son Isaac. And the servant said unto him, Peradventure
the woman will not be willing to follow me unto this land: must I
needs bring thy son again unto the land from whence thou camest? And
Abraham said unto him, Beware that thou bring not my son thither
again. The Lord God of heaven, which took me from my father's house,
and from the land of my kindred, and which spake unto me, and sware
unto me, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land; he shall send
his angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife unto my son from
thence. And if the woman will not be willing to follow thee, then
thou shalt be clear from this my oath: only bring not my son thither

Here it is remarkable that the servant is addressed as the legal
guardian of the son. Abraham does not caution Isaac as to whom he
should marry, but cautions the old servant of the house concerning
the woman to whom he should marry Isaac. It is apparently understood
that, in case of Abraham's death, the regency in the family falls
into the hands of this servant.

The picture of the preparations made for this embassy denotes a
princely station and great wealth. "And the servant took ten camels
of the camels of his master, and departed; for all the goods of his
master were in his hand; and he arose, and went to Mesopotamia, unto
the city of Nahor."

Now comes a quaint and beautiful picture of the manners of those
pastoral days. "And he made his camels to kneel down without the
city by a well of water, at the time of the evening, even the time
that women go out to draw water."

Next, we have a specimen of the kind of prayer which obtained in
those simple times, when men felt as near to God as a child does to
its mother. Kneeling, uncovered, in the evening light, the gray old
serving-man thus talks to the invisible Protector:--"O Lord God of
my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and
show kindness unto my master Abraham. Behold, I stand here by the
well of water; and the daughters of the men of the city come out
to draw water: and let it come to pass that the damsel to whom I
shall say, Let down thy pitcher, I pray thee, that I may drink; and
she shall say, Drink, and I will give thy camels drink also: let
the same be she that thou hast appointed for thy servant Isaac; and
thereby shall I know that thou hast showed kindness unto my master."

This is prayer. Not a formal, ceremonious state address to a
monarch, but the talk of the child with his father, asking simply
and directly for what is wanted here and now. And the request was
speedily granted, for thus the story goes on: "And it came to pass,
before he had done speaking, that, behold, Rebekah came out, who
was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's
brother." It is noticeable, how strong is the sensibility to womanly
beauty in this narrative. This young Rebekah is thus announced:
"And the damsel was very fair to look upon, and a virgin, and she
went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up." Drawn
by the bright eyes and fair face, the old servant hastens to apply
the test, doubtless hoping that this lovely creature is the one
appointed for his young master. "And the servant ran to meet her,
and said, Let me, I pray thee, drink a little water of thy pitcher.
And she said, Drink, my lord: and she hastened, and let down her
pitcher upon her hand, and gave him drink." She gave with a will,
with a grace and readiness that overflowed the request; and then it
is added: "And when she had done giving him drink, she said, I will
draw water for thy camels also, until they have done drinking. And
she hasted and emptied her pitcher into the trough, and ran again
unto the well to draw water, and drew for all his camels." Let us
fancy ten camels, all on their knees in a row, at the trough, with
their long necks, and patient, careworn faces, while the pretty
young Jewess, with cheerful alacrity, is dashing down the water from
her pitcher, filling and emptying in quick succession, apparently
making nothing of the toil; the gray-haired old servant looking on
in devout recognition of the answer to his prayer, for the story
says: "And the man wondering at her, held his peace, to wit [know]
whether the Lord had made his journey prosperous or not."

There was wise penetration into life and the essentials of wedded
happiness in this prayer of the old servant. What he asked for his
young master was not beauty or talent, but a ready and unfailing
outflow of sympathy and kindness. He sought not merely for a
gentle nature, a kind heart, but for a heart so rich in kindness
that it should run even beyond what was asked, and be ready to
anticipate the request with new devices of helpfulness. The lively,
light-hearted kindness that could not be content with waiting on the
thirsty old man, but with cheerful alacrity took upon herself the
care of all the ten camels, this was a gift beyond that of beauty;
yet when it came in the person of a maiden exceedingly fair to look
upon, no marvel that the old man wondered joyously at his success.

When the camels had done drinking, he produced from his treasury a
golden earring and bracelets, with which he adorned the maiden. "And
he said to her, Whose daughter art thou? tell me, I pray thee; is
there room in thy father's house for us to lodge in? And she said
unto him, I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, which she
bare to Nahor. She said, moreover, unto him, We have both straw and
provender enough, and room to lodge in. And the man bowed down his
head, and worshiped the Lord. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God
of my master Abraham, who hath not left destitute my master of his
mercy and his truth: I being in the way, the Lord led me to the
house of my master's brethren."

We may imagine the gay delight with which the pretty maiden ran to
exhibit the gifts of jewelry that had thus unexpectedly descended
upon her. Laban, her brother, does not prove either a generous or
hospitable person in the outcome of the story; but the ambassador
of a princely relative, traveling with a caravan of ten camels, and
showering gold and jewels, makes his own welcome. The narrative
proceeds:--"And it came to pass when he saw the earring, and the
bracelets upon his sister's hands, and when he heard the words of
Rebekah his sister, saying, Thus spake the man unto me; that he came
unto the man; and, behold, he stood by the camels at the well. And
he said, Come in, thou blessed of the Lord; wherefore standest thou
without? for I have prepared the house, and room for the camels. And
the man came into the house: and he ungirded the camels, and gave
straw and provender for the camels, and water to wash his feet, and
the men's feet that were with him. And there was set meat before him
to eat: but he said, I will not eat, till I have told my errand. And
he said, Speak on. And he said, I am Abraham's servant, and the Lord
hath blessed my master greatly, and he is become great: and he hath
given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and men-servants,
and maid-servants, and camels, and asses."

After this exordium he goes on to tell the whole story of his oath
to his master, and the purport of his journey; of the prayer that he
had uttered at the well, and of its fulfillment in a generous-minded
and beautiful young maiden; and thus he ends his story: "And I bowed
down my head, and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord God of
my master Abraham, which hath led me in the right way to take my
master's brother's daughter unto his son. And now, if ye will deal
kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that
I may turn to the right hand or to the left. Then Laban and Bethuel
answered and said, The thing proceedeth from the Lord: we cannot
speak unto thee bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before thee; take
her, and go, and let her be thy master's son's wife, as the Lord
hath spoken. And it came to pass, that when Abraham's servant heard
their words, he worshiped the Lord, bowing himself to the earth."

And now comes a scene most captivating to female curiosity. Even in
patriarchal times the bridegroom, it seems, provided a _corbeille
de mariage_; for we are told: "And the servant brought forth
jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them
to Rebekah; he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious
things." The scene of examining jewelry and garments and rich
stuffs in the family party would have made no mean subject for a
painter. No wonder such a suitor, sending such gifts, found welcome
entertainment. So the story goes on: "And they did eat and drink,
he and the men that were with him, and tarried all night; and they
rose up in the morning; and he said, Send me away unto my master.
And her brother and her mother said, Let the damsel abide with us a
few days, at the least ten, and after that she shall go. And he said
unto them, Hinder me not, seeing the Lord hath prospered my way;
send me away, that I may go to my master. And they said, We will
call the damsel and inquire at her mouth. And they called Rebekah,
and said unto her, Wilt thou go with this man? And she said, I will
go. And they sent away Rebekah their sister, and her nurse, and
Abraham's servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah, and said
unto her, Thou art our sister; be thou the mother of thousands of
millions, and let thy seed possess the gate of those which hate
them." The idea of being a mother of nations gives a sort of dignity
to the married life of these patriarchal women,--it was the motherly
instinct made sublime.

Thus far, this wooing seems to have been conceived and conducted
in that simple religious spirit recognized in the words of the old
prayer: "Grant that all our works may be begun, continued, and ended
in thee." The Father of Nations has been a never-failing presence in
every scene.

The expectant bridegroom seems to have been a youth of a pensive,
dreamy, meditative nature. Brought up with the strictest notions of
filial submission, he waits to receive his wife dutifully from his
father's hand. Yet, as the caravan nears the encampment, he walks
forth to meet them. "And Isaac went out to meditate in the field at
the eventide: and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, the
camels were coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw
Isaac, she lighted off the camel. For she had said unto the servant,
What man is this that walketh in the field to meet us? And the
servant had said, It is my master: therefore she took a veil, and
covered herself."

In the little that is said of Rebekah, we see always that alert
readiness, prompt to see and do what is to be done at the moment. No
dreamer is she, but a lively and wide-awake young woman, who knows
her own mind exactly, and has the fit word and fit action ready for
each short turn in life. She was quick, cheerful, and energetic in
hospitality. She was prompt and unhesitating in her resolve; and
yet, at the moment of meeting, she knew the value and the propriety
of the _veil_. She covered herself, that she might not unsought be

With a little touch of pathos, the story ends: "And Isaac brought
her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became
his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his
mother's death." We see here one of those delicate and tender
natures that find repose first in the love of a mother, and, when
that stay is withdrawn, lean upon a beloved wife.

So ideally pure, and sweet, and tenderly religious has been the
whole inception and carrying on and termination of this wedding,
that Isaac and Rebekah have been remembered in the wedding ritual
of the catholic Christian churches as models of a holy marriage
according to the Divine will. "Send thy blessing upon these thy
servants, this man and this woman, whom we bless in thy name; that
as Isaac and Rebekah lived faithfully together, so these persons may
surely perform and keep the vow and covenant between them."

In the subsequent history of the family, the dramatic individuality
of the characters is kept up: Isaac is the gentle, thoughtful,
misty dreamer, lost in sentiment and contemplation; and Rebekah the
forward, cheerful, self-confident manager of external things. We
can fancy it as one of the households where all went as the mother
said. In fact, in mature life, we see these prompt and managing
traits, leading the matron to domestic artifices which could only
be justified to herself by her firm belief that the end pursued was
good enough to sanctify the means. Energetic, lively, self-trustful
young women do sometimes form just such managing and diplomatic

Isaac, the husband, always dreamy and meditative, becomes old and
doting; conceives an inordinate partiality for the turbulent son
Esau, whose skill in hunting supplies his table with the meat he
loves. Rebekah has heard the prophetic legend, that Jacob, the
younger son, is the chosen one to perpetuate the sacred race; and
Jacob, the tender, the care-taking, the domestic, is the idol of her

Now, there are some sorts of women that, if convinced there was such
a Divine oracle or purpose in relation to a favorite son, would
have rested upon it in quiet faith, and left Providence to work out
its ends in its own way and time. Not so Rebekah. The same restless
activity of helpfulness that led her to offer water to all the
camels, when asked to give drink for the servant, now led her to
come to the assistance of Providence. She proposes to Jacob to make
the oracle sure, and obtain the patriarchal blessing by stratagem.
When Jacob expresses a humble doubt whether such an artifice may not
defeat itself and bring on him the curse rather than the blessing of
his father, the mother characteristically answers: "Upon me be the
curse, my son: only obey my voice." Pages of description could not
set a character before us more sharply and distinctly than this one
incident, and nothing can show more dramatically in whose hands was
the ruling power in that family.

The managing, self-reliant Rebekah, ready to do her full share in
every emergency, and to run before every occasion with her busy
plannings, is not a character of patriarchal ages merely. Every age
has repeated it, and our own is no exception. There are not wanting
among us cheerful, self-confident, domestic managers, who might take
a lesson from the troubles that befell the good-hearted, but too
busy and officious Rebekah, in consequence of the success of her own
schemes. The account of this belongs to our next chapter.

[Illustration: LEAH AND RACHEL]


In the earlier portions of the Old Testament we have, very
curiously, the history of the deliberate formation of an influential
race, to which was given a most important mission in the world's
history. The principle of _selection_, much talked of now in
science, is the principle which is represented in the patriarchal
history as operating under a direct Divine guidance. From the
calling of Abraham, there seems to have been this continued
watchfulness in selecting the party through whom the chosen race was
to be continued. Every marriage thus far is divinely appointed and
guided. While the Fatherly providence and nurture is not withdrawn
from the rejected ones, still the greatest care is exercised to
separate from them the chosen. The latter are selected apparently
not so much for moral excellence in itself considered, as for
excellence in relation to stock. The peaceable, domestic, prudent,
and conservative elements are uniformly chosen, in preference to the
warlike and violent characteristics of the age.

The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah was more like the type of a
Christian marriage than any other on record. No other wife shared
a place in his heart and home; and, even to old age, Isaac knew
no other than the bride of his youth. From this union sprang twin
boys; between whom, as is often the case, there was a remarkable
difference. The physical energy and fire all seemed to go to
one, the gentler and more quiet traits to the other. Esau was
the wild huntsman, the ranger of the mountains, delighting in
force,--precisely adapted to become the chief of a predatory tribe.
Jacob, the patient, the prudent, the submissive, was the home child,
the darling of his mother. Now, with every constitutional excellency
and virtue is inevitably connected, in our imperfect humanity, the
liability to a fault. The peace-loving and prudent, averse to
strife, are liable to sins of artifice and deception, as stronger
natures are to those of force and violence. Probably, in the calm
eye of Him who sees things just as they are, the one kind of fault
is no worse than the other. At all events, the sacred narrative is
a daguerreotype of character; it reflects every trait and every
imperfection without comment. The mild and dreamy Isaac, to save his
wife from a rapacious king, undertakes to practice the same artifice
that his father used before him, saying, "She is my sister"; and the
same evil consequence ensues. The lesson of artifice once taught
in the family, the evil spreads. Rebekah, when Isaac is old and
doting, commands Jacob to personate his older brother, and thus
gain the patriarchal blessing, which in those days had the force
of a last will and testament in our times. Yet, through all the
faults and errors of the mere human actors runs the thread of a
Divine guidance. Before the birth of Jacob it was predicted that
he should be the chosen head of the forming nation; and by his
mother's artifice, and his own participation in it, that prediction
is fulfilled. Yet the natural punishment of the action follows. Esau
is alienated, and meditates murder in his heart; and Jacob, though
the mother's darling, is driven out from his home a hunted fugitive,
parted from her for life. He starts on foot to find his way to
Padan-Aram, to his father's kindred, there to seek and meet and woo
the wife appointed for him.

It is here that the history of the patriarch Jacob becomes
immediately helpful to all men in all ages. And its usefulness
consists in just this,--that Jacob, at this time in his life, was no
saint or hero. He was not a person distinguished either by intellect
or by high moral attainment, but simply such a raw, unformed lad
as life is constantly casting adrift from the shelter of homes.
He is no better and no worse than the multitude of boys, partly
good and partly bad, who, for one reason or another, are forced to
leave their mothers and their fathers; to take staff in hand and
start out on the great life-journey alone. He had been religiously
brought up; he knew that his father and his mother had a God,--the
Invisible God of Abraham and Isaac; but then, other gods and lords
many were worshiped in the tribes around him, and how did he know,
after all, which was the right one? He wanders on over the wide,
lonesome Syrian plains, till dark night comes on, and he finds
himself all alone, an atom in the great silent creation,--alone,
as many a sailor-boy has found himself on the deck of his ship, or
hunter, in the deep recesses of the forest. The desolate lad gathers
a heap of stones for a pillow and lies down to sleep. Nothing could
be more sorrowfully helpless than this picture; the representative
portrait of many a mother's boy to-day, and in all days. We cannot
suppose that he prayed or commended his soul to God. We are told
distinctly that he did not even remember that God was in that place.
He lies down, helpless and forlorn, on his cold stone pillow, and
sinks, overcome with fatigue, to prayerless slumber. And now, in
his dreams, a glorious light appears; a luminous path opens upward
to the skies,--angels are passing to and fro upon it, and above, in
bright benignity, stands a visible form, and says: "I am the Lord
God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon
thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and thy seed
shall be as the dust of the earth; and thou shalt spread abroad
to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south;
and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be
blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all
places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again unto this land;
for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have
spoken to thee of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said,
Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was
afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but
the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob arose
up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his
pillow, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of
it. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will
keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and
raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father's house in
peace, then shall the Lord be my God: and this stone, which I have
set for a pillar, shall be God's house: and of all that Thou shalt
give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee."

In one night how much is born in that soul! The sentiment of
reverence, awe of the Divine,--a conviction of the reality of God
and an invisible world,--and the beginning of that great experiment
by which man learns practically that God is his father. For, in
the outset, every human being's consciousness of God must be just
of this sort. Have I a Father in heaven? Does he care for me? Will
he help me? Questions that each man can only answer as Jacob did,
by casting himself upon God in a matter-of-fact, practical way in
the exigencies of this present life. And this history is the more
valuable because it takes man in his earlier stages of imperfection.
We are apt to feel that it might be safe for Paul, or Isaiah, or
other great saints, to expect God to befriend them; but here a poor,
untaught shepherd boy, who is not religious, avows that, up to this
time, he has had no sense of God; and yet between him and heaven
there is a pathway, and about him in his loneliness are ministering
spirits; and the God of Abraham and of Isaac is ready to become
his friend. In an important sense, this night dream, this gracious
promise of God to Jacob, are not merely for him, but for all erring,
helpless, suffering sons of men. In the fatherly God thus revealed
to the patriarch, we see the first fruits of the promise that
through him all nations should be blessed.

The next step of the drama shows us a scene of sylvan simplicity.
About the old well in Haran, shepherds are waiting with their
flocks, when the stripling approaches: "And Jacob said unto them,
My brethren, whence be ye? And they said, Of Haran are we. And he
said unto them, Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We
know him. And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is
well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep. And
he said, Lo, it is yet high day, neither is it time that the cattle
should be gathered together. Water ye the sheep, and go and feed
them. And they said, We cannot, until all the flocks be gathered
together, and till they roll the stone from the well's mouth; then
we water the sheep. And while he yet spake with them Rachel came
with her father's sheep; for she kept them. And it came to pass,
when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban, his mother's brother,
and the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother, that Jacob went near,
and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of
Laban, his mother's brother. And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up
his voice, and wept; and Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's
brother, and that he was Rebekah's son: and she ran and told her
father. And it came to pass, when Laban heard the tidings of Jacob,
his sister's son, that he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and
kissed him, and brought him to his house."

In the story of Isaac, we have the bridegroom who is simply the
submissive recipient of a wife at his father's hands; in that of
Jacob, we have the story of love at first sight. The wanderer,
exiled from home, gives up his heart at once to the keeping of his
beautiful shepherdess cousin, and so, when the terms of service
are fixed with the uncle, the narrative says: "And Laban had two
daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the
younger was Rachel. Leah was tender-eyed; but Rachel was beautiful
and well-favored. And Jacob loved Rachel, and said, I will serve
thee seven years for Rachel, thy younger daughter. And Jacob served
seven years for Rachel, and they seemed unto him but a few days, for
the love he had to her."

But when the wedding comes, in the darkness and secrecy of the night
a false bride is imposed on the lover. And Jacob awoke, and behold
it was Leah. Not the last man was he who has awakened, after the
bridal, to find his wife was not the woman he had taken her to be.
But the beloved one is given as a second choice, and seven years
more of service are imposed as her price.

The characteristics of these two sisters, Leah and Rachel, are less
vividly given than those of any of the patriarchal women. Sarah,
Hagar, and Rebekah are all sharply defined characters, in and of
themselves; but of Leah and Rachel almost all that can be said is
that they were Jacob's wives, and mothers of the twelve tribes of

The character of their father Laban was narrow, shrewd, and hard,
devoid of any generous or interesting trait, and the daughters
appear to have grown up under a narrowing and repressing influence.
What we learn of them in the story shows the envies, the jealousies,
the bickerings and heart-burnings of poorly developed natures. Leah,
the less beloved one, exults over her handsomer and more favored
sister because she has been made a fruitful mother, while to Rachel
the gift of children is denied. Rachel murmurs and pines, and
says to her husband, "Give me children, or I die." The desire for
offspring in those days seemed to be an agony. To be childless, was
disgrace and misery unspeakable. At last, however, Rachel becomes a
mother and gives birth to Joseph, the best-beloved of his father.
The narrative somehow suggests that charm of personal beauty and
manner which makes Rachel the beloved one, and her child dearer than
all the rest. How many such women there are, pretty and charming,
and holding men's hearts like a fortress, of whom a biographer could
say nothing only that they were much beloved!

When Jacob flees from Laban with his family, we find Rachel secretly
taking away the images which her father had kept as household gods.
The art by which she takes them, the effrontery with which she
denies the possession of them, when her father comes to search for
them, shows that she had little moral elevation. The belief in the
God of her husband probably was mixed up confusedly in her childish
mind with the gods of her father. Not unfrequently in those dim
ages, people seemed to alternate from one to the other, as occasions
varied. Yet she seems to have held her husband's affections to the
last; and when, in giving birth to her last son, she died, this son
became the darling of his father's old age. The sacred poet has made
the name of this beloved wife a proverb, to express the strength of
the motherly instinct, and "Rachel weeping for her children" is a
line that immortalizes her name to all time.

Whatever be the faults of these patriarchal women, it must be
confessed that the ardent desire of motherhood which inspired them
is far nobler than the selfish, unwomanly spirit of modern times,
which regards children only as an encumbrance and a burden. The
motherly yearning and motherly spirit give a certain dignity to
these women of primitive ages, which atones for many faults of
imperfect development.

Twenty-one years elapse, and Jacob, a man of substance, father
of a family of twelve children, with flocks and herds to form a
numerous caravan, leaves the service of his hard master to go back
to his father. The story shows the same traits in the man as in the
lad. He is the gentle, affectionate, prudent, kindly, care-taking
family-man, faithful in duty, and evading oppression by quiet skill
rather than meeting it with active opposition. He has become rich,
in spite of every effort of an aggressive master to prevent it.

When leaving Laban's service, he thus appeals to him: "These twenty
years have I been with thee: thy ewes and thy she-goats have not
cast their young, and the rams of thy flock have I not eaten. That
which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee; I bare the loss of
it. Thus was I: in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost
by night, and my sleep departed from mine eyes. Thus have I been
twenty years in thy house. I served thee fourteen years for thy two
daughters, and six years for thy cattle; and thou hast changed my
wages ten times. Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham,
and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me
away now empty. God hath seen my affliction and the labor of my
hands, and rebuked thee yesternight."

To the last of the history of Jacob, we see the same man,--careful,
patient, faithful, somewhat despondent, wrapped up in family ties
and cares, and needing at every step to lean on a superior power.
And the Father on whom he seeks to lean is never wanting to him, as
he will never be to any of us, however weak, or faulty, or blind. As
the caravan nears home, news is brought that Esau, with an army of
horsemen, is galloping to meet him. Then says the record: "Jacob was
greatly afraid and distressed: and Jacob said, O God of my father
Abraham, the God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me,
Return unto thy country and to thy kindred, and I will deal well
with thee: I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of
all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant: for with
my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand
of Esau; for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the
mother with the children. And thou saidst, I will surely do thee
good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be
numbered for multitude." The prayer is not in vain. That night a
mysterious stranger meets Jacob in the twilight shadows of morning.
He seeks to detain him; but, as afterwards, when the disciples met
an unknown Friend on the way to Emmaus, he made as though he would
go farther. So now this stranger struggles in the embrace of the
patriarch. Who, then, is this?--is it the Divine One? The thought
thrills through the soul as Jacob strives to detain him. There is
something wildly poetic in the legend. "And he said, Let me go,
for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except
thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said,
Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but
Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and
hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him: Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.
And he said, Wherefore dost thou ask after my name? And he blessed
him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, for he
said, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved."
God's love to man, the power of man's weakness and sorrow over the
Father-heart, were never more beautifully shown than in this sacred
idyl. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God of the weak,
the sinful, the despondent, the defenceless; the helper of the
helpless,--He is the God of this sacred story; and so long as man is
erring, and consciously frail, so long as he needs an ever-present
and ever-loving Friend and Helper, so long will this story of Jacob
be dear to the human heart.


[Illustration: MIRIAM AND MOSES]


It has been remarked by Montalembert that almost all the great
leading men in history have been intimately associated with superior
women. If we look on Moses in a merely human light, and judge him
by what he accomplished, as we do other historic characters, he
is in certain respects the greatest man of antiquity. The works
of the legislators, kings, and conquerors of ancient history were
perishable. Their cities have crumbled, their governments and
commonwealths have dissolved as waves of the sea. Moses alone
founded a nation that still lives with an imperishable vitality,--a
people whose religious literature still expresses the highest
aspirations of the most cultivated nations of the earth.

His advent, therefore, forms an era in the history of humanity, and
the very opening of his career presents us with pictures of imposing
and venerable female characters. The mother of Moses is mentioned,
in the epistle to the Hebrews, as one of those worthies of ancient
time, who triumphed over things seen by the power of a sublime
faith in the invisible God and his promises. The very name of the
mother (Exodus vi. 20), Jochebed,--"the glory of Jehovah,"--shows
that a deep spirit of religious enthusiasm and trust was the
prevailing impulse in the family. She was of that moral organization
whence, through the laws of descent, might spring the prophet and
prophetess. By _faith_ she refused to obey the cruel order of the
king, and for three months hid the beautiful child.

And here comes in the image of the first, and one of the most
revered, of the race of Hebrew prophetesses, Miriam, the elder
sister of Moses. According to the Rabbinic tradition, the gift of
prophecy descended upon her even in childhood. The story is that
Miriam's mother, Jochebed, was one of the midwives to whom Pharaoh
gave the command to destroy the children, and that when the child
Miriam heard it, being then only five years old, her face flushed
scarlet, and she said in anger: "Woe to this man! God will punish
him for his evil deeds." After this the tradition says that when the
decree went forth for the destruction of every male child, Amram
separated himself from his wife Jochebed, lest he should bring on
her the anguish of fruitless motherhood. After three years, the
spirit of prophecy came on Miriam as she sat in the house, and
she cried out suddenly: "My parents shall have another son, who
shall deliver Israel out of the hands of the Egyptians." The angel
Gabriel guided Amram back to find his wife, whom he found blooming
in all the beauty of youth, though more than a hundred years old.
When she found herself with child, she feared that it might prove a
boy, to be cruelly slain. Then the Eternal One spake in a dream to
the father, bidding him be of good cheer, for he would protect the
child, and all nations should hold him in honor.

The tradition goes on to say that the boy was born without pain, and
that when he was born the whole house was filled with a light as of
bright sunshine. The mother's anxiety was increased when she saw the
beauty of the child, who was lovely as an angel of God. The parents
called him Tobias, "God is good," to express their thankfulness,
and Amram kissed Miriam on the brow and said: "Now know I that thy
prophecy is come true."

In contrast to this ornate narrative is the grave and chaste
simplicity of the Scripture story. It is all comprised in two or
three verses of the second chapter of Exodus. "And there went a man
of the house of Levi, and took to wife a daughter of Levi. And the
woman conceived, and bare a son: and when she saw him that he was a
goodly child she hid him three months. And when she could no longer
hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with
slime and with pitch, and put the child therein and laid it in the
flags by the river's brink. And his sister stood afar off to see
what would be done to him. And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to
wash herself at the river; and her maidens walked along the river's
side: and when she saw the ark among the flags, she sent her maid
to fetch it. And when she had opened it, she saw the child: and
behold, the babe wept. And she had compassion on him and said: This
is one of the Hebrew children. Then said his sister to Pharaoh's
daughter, Shall I go and call to thee a nurse of the Hebrew women,
that she may nurse the child for thee? And Pharaoh's daughter said
unto her, Go. And the maid went and called the child's mother. And
Pharaoh's daughter said, Take this child away, and nurse it for me,
and I will give thee thy wages; and the woman took the child and
nursed it. And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh's
daughter, and she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I
drew him out of the water."

To this, we may add the account which St. Stephen gives when
standing before the Jewish council. "In which time Moses was born,
who was exceeding fair,[2] and nourished up in his father's house
three months. And when he was cast out, Pharaoh's daughter took him
up and nourished him for her own son. And Moses was learned in all
the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds."

  [2] The marginal translation reads "fair to God."

Such are the extremely brief notices of a great event and of a group
of characters whose influence on mankind every one of us feels
to-day. For, the Jewish nation, in being chosen of God to be a
sacerdotal race, was to pass through a history which should embody
struggles, oppressions, agonies, victories, and deliverances, such
as should represent to all time the sorrows and joys, the trials
and hopes, of humanity. To this day, the events of Jewish history
so well express universal experiences, that its literature in all
languages, and under all difference of climate and custom, has an
imperishable hold on the human heart. It has been well said that
nations struggling for liberty against powerful oppressors flee as
instinctively to the Old Testament as they do to mountain ranges.
The American slave universally called his bondage Egypt, and read
the history of the ten plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea
as parts of his own experience. In the dark days of slavery, the
history of Moses was sung at night, and by stealth, on plantations,
with solemn rhythmic movements, reminding one of old Egyptian times.
It was the Marseillaise of a rude people, forbidden by the master,
and all the dearer to the slave.

We must take the full force of the anguish, the ignominy, the
oppression of slavery acting on noble and sensitive natures,
elevated by faith in a high national destiny, and looking with
earnestness and prayer for its evolution, in order to get a full
idea of the character of Miriam. Such periods produce children with
that highly exalted organization which is predisposed to receive the
prophetic impulse. The Rabbinic traditions with regard to Miriam,
which we have added, are detailed at length by Josephus in his
history, and show how strong is the impression which the personality
of this woman made on those of her time, in connection with the life
of their great lawgiver.

The Bible account of the birth and preservation of Moses has the
usual quality of Scripture narratives; it is very brief and very
stimulating to the imagination. Who of us has not seen in childhood
the old Nile with its reeds and rushes, its background of temples
and pyramids? We have shared the tremors of the mother and sister
while the little one was launched in the frail ark. Probably some
report of the kindness of the Princess had inspired a trembling
hope. The mother dares not stay to guard her treasure, lest she
draw cruel eyes upon it; but the little Miriam, as a child playing
among the tall reeds, can remain on the watch without attracting
attention. In the scene where the helpless stranger is discovered
by the Princess, we have, in the movements of the sister, all the
characteristics, in miniature, of the future leader of Israel.
Prompt, fearless, with an instantaneous instinct as to the right
thing to be done at the critical moment, we can see the little
Hebrew maid press forward amid the throng surrounding the alarmed
and crying child. The tradition is that an Egyptian woman, at the
command of the Princess, tried to quiet him at her breast, and that
the young prophet indignantly rejected the attempt,--a statement
which we who know babies, whether prophetic or otherwise, may deem
highly probable. Then spoke up the little Miriam: "Shall I go and
call thee a nurse of the Hebrew women, that she may nurse the child
for thee?" This was a bold proposal, but it succeeded. Perhaps the
small speaker had some of the wonderful beauty of her infant brother
to set off her words: at all events, the Princess seems at once to
have trusted her with the commission. We may readily believe the
little feet had not far to go. The child comes back to his mother's
bosom as a royal ward.

We see here in the child Miriam great self-poise and
self-confidence. She is not afraid of royalty, and, though of an
enslaved and despised race, is ready to make suggestions to a queen.
These are the traits of a natural leader, and we shall see them
reappearing later in the history of Miriam. It was customary among
the Oriental races to prolong the period of nursing two or three
years, and Moses was thus in the care of his mother and elder sister
for a long time.

Josephus gives the tradition current among the Jews, that the child
was a wonderfully attractive one,--so beautiful, that every one who
beheld him turned to look at him. The mother and sister looked upon
him as the visible pledge of God's mercy to their suffering people,
as well as the visible answer to prayer. The God of Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob, in whose hand are all hearts, had made a refuge
for the young Deliverer in the very family of the destroying tyrant!

The intercourse thus established between the court of Pharaoh and
these two women must have materially advanced their position. We
see in the Princess indications of a gracious and affable nature,
and in Miriam a quick readiness to turn every favorable indication
to good account. It is, therefore, quite probable that Miriam may
have shared the liberal patronage of the Princess. Evidently she
continued to influence the mind of her brother after he had gone
into the family of Pharaoh, since we see her publicly associated
with him at the great period of the national deliverance.

In the history of Moses, and in his laws and institutes, we see
a peculiar and almost feminine tenderness and consideration for
whatever is helpless and defenceless. Perhaps the history of his own
life,--the story of the forlorn helplessness of his own cradle,
and the anguish of his mother and sister,--operating on a large
and generous nature, produced this result. For example, among the
laws of the great lawgiver, we find one which forbids the caging
of a free bird (Deut. xxii. 6, 7); thus it was allowed to take the
young who might easily be reconciled to captivity, but forbidden to
take those accustomed to freedom. Whoever has seen the miserable
struggles of a free bird brought suddenly into captivity, can
appreciate the compassionateness of the man who made such a law for
a great people. In the same spirit another law forbids the muzzling
of the ox when he treads the grain, and commands every man to stop
and help an overburdened ass that falls beneath his load; and it
particularly adds, that the ass of an enemy shall be helped, no
matter how great the unwillingness.

In fact, the strongest impulse in the character of Moses appears to
have been that of protective justice, with regard to every helpless
and down-trodden class. The laws of Moses, if carefully examined,
are a phenomenon,--an exception to the laws of either ancient or
modern nations in the care they exercised over women, widows,
orphans, paupers, foreigners, servants, and dumb animals. Of all the
so-called Christian nations there is none but could advantageously
take a lesson in legislation from them. There is a plaintive,
pathetic tone of compassion in their very language, which seems to
have been learned only of superhuman tenderness. Not the gentlest
words of Jesus are more compassionate in their spirit than many of
these laws of Moses. Some of them sound more like the pleadings of
a mother than the voice of legal statutes. For example: "If thou
lend money to any that is poor by thee, thou shalt not lay upon
him usury. If thou at all take thy neighbor's garment to pledge,
thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down, for that
is his covering, it is his raiment for his skin; wherein shall he
sleep? and it shall come to pass that when he crieth unto me I will
hear, for I am gracious." "Thou shalt not oppress a hired servant
that is poor and needy, whether he be of thine own brethren or of
strangers that are within thy gates. At his day shalt thou give him
his wages, neither shall the sun go down upon it, for he is poor
and setteth his heart upon it, lest he cry unto the Lord against
thee." "Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger nor of
the fatherless, nor take the widow's raiment as pledge; thou shalt
remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt, and the Lord thy God
redeemed thee, therefore I command thee to do this thing." "When
thou cuttest down thy harvest and hast forgot a sheaf in the field,
thou shalt not go again to fetch it, it shall be for the stranger,
the fatherless, and the widow. When thou beatest thine olive-tree,
thou shalt not go over it again; when thou gatherest the grapes of
thy vineyard, thou shalt not glean it afterward, it shall be for the
stranger, the fatherless, and the widow."

In all this, we see how deep was the impression made on the mind
of Moses by the enslaved and helpless condition of his people. He
had felt for the struggles of the enslaved, and it made him tender
to the wild bird of the desert beating against its cage, to the
overloaded ass fainting under his burden, to the hungry ox toiling
to procure food which he was restricted from enjoying.

Of the period including the time that Moses left his mother and
sister to dwell in the palace of the Pharaohs, and receive the
education of an Egyptian prince, we have no record in the sacred
narrative, except the declaration of Stephen in the book of Acts,
that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and mighty
in word and deed.

In Smith's Dictionary of the Bible there is a brief _résumé_ of what
is said by ancient authors of this period of his life. According
to Strabo, he was educated at Heliopolis, and grew up there as a
priest, under his Egyptian name of Osariph. According to Philo,
he was taught the whole range of Greek, Chaldee, and Assyrian
literature. From the Egyptians, especially, he learned mathematics,
to train his mind for the unprejudiced reception of truth. He
invented boats, engines for building, instruments of war and of
hydraulics, and also understood hieroglyphics and mensuration of
land. He taught Orpheus, and is thence called by the Greeks Musæus,
and by the Egyptians Hermes. According to Josephus, he was sent as
general of the Egyptian army on an expedition against Ethiopia.
He got rid of the serpents, in the countries through which he was
to march, by turning basketfuls of ibises upon them. Tharbis,
the daughter of the King of Ethiopia, fell in love with him, and
induced her father to surrender to him; and he returned in triumph
with her to Egypt as his wife, and founded the city of Hermopolis
to celebrate his victory. We see here, that if Moses remained true
to the teachings of his mother and sister, and the simple faith
of Israel, it was not for want of the broadest culture the world
afforded. Egypt was the cradle of arts and letters, and the learned
men of Greece traveled there to study the mysteries which were
concealed under her hieroglyphics. Moses was a priest of Egypt in
virtue of being a prince of a royal house. According to the Egyptian
tradition, although a priest of Heliopolis, he always performed his
devotions outside the walls of the city, in the open air, turned
towards the sunrising. According to the language of St. Paul, "he
endured as seeing Him that is invisible."

In Wilkinson's "Egypt," we have some interesting suggestions as
to the life and training of the Egyptian priest, which go far to
show what manner of education must have been given to Moses. The
utmost purity of person was enjoined. Daily and nightly bathing
of the whole person, a dress of pure linen, great exactness as to
food, with strict dietetic regulations, were also a part of the
training. The Egyptians were the fountains of physiological and
medical knowledge to the nations of antiquity, and undoubtedly
these studies were a part of the "wisdom" of the priests. Moses
must also have passed through the lesser and the greater initiation
into the mysteries of Egypt; in which were taught the unity of God,
the immortality of the soul, and the retributions of a future life.
Thus he had an opportunity of comparing that portion of the Divine
teaching and traditions which had descended through Egypt, with the
pure stream which had flowed down through the patriarchal families.

It thus appears that the Divine Being, in choosing the teacher and
lawgiver to form his chosen nation, did not disdain the existing
wisdom of the world up to that time. Moses had before him the
results of all the world's experience in thought and culture. Egypt
was the best there was to know, and he knew Egypt thoroughly. While,
however, he often took suggestions from the ritual and philosophy
of the Egyptians, the general bent of his institutes in reference to
them was jealous and antagonistic.

At the end of such a training and such varied experience,--as
priest, as general, as conqueror,--Moses returns to Egypt and
meets again his sister, in whose heart the prophetic fire is still
burning; and the sight of the oppression and misery of his people
leads him to seek to interpose for their deliverance. The first
act is the simple, unadvised movement of indignation at injustice;
he sees a Hebrew slave writhing under the lash of an Egyptian; he
kills the tyrant and delivers the slave. He next tries to rouse a
national spirit of union among his people, and separates two who are
fighting, with the words, "Ye are brethren, and should not contend."
St. Stephen further interprets the heart of Moses at this crisis:
"For he supposed that his brethren would have understood how that
God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not. But he
that did his neighbor wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee
a ruler and a judge over us? Wilt thou kill me as thou didst the
Egyptian yesterday?" (Acts vii. 25, 27, 28.) According to Josephus,
there were at this time envious and jealous plots hatching against
Moses in the court of Pharaoh, and his life was threatened.

He fled to the land of Midian, where, with characteristic chivalry,
his first act was to interfere for the protection of some women
who were prevented by the brutality of the shepherd herdsmen from
watering their flocks.

Still we see in him the protector of the weak and defenseless. In
this case his interference procures for him the gratitude of the
priest of the shepherd tribe, and the exiled Egyptian prince becomes
a shepherd in the wilderness of Midian. He marries and settles down,
apparently content with the life of a simple herdsman. This seems
to have been one of those refluent tides to which natures of great
sensibility are liable, after a short experience of the realities
of life. At once ardent and tender, Moses had been ready to cast in
his fortunes with his oppressed and suffering people; but he found
them unwilling to listen to him, and unworthy of freedom. His
heart sinks,--the grandeur of courts, military renown, the wisdom
of Egypt, are all less in his eyes than even the reproach of a good
cause; but he feels himself powerless and alone, rejected by the
very people whom he came to serve. Like the Greater Prophet of whom
he was the type, "He came unto his own, and his own received him

In sinking of heart and despair, the solitude of the wilderness, its
loneliness and stern simplicity, are a refuge and rest to him. In
the great calm of nature he draws near to Him who is invisible. What
is most peculiar in the character of Moses, with all his advantages
of beauty, rank, station, education, and military success, is a
singular absence of self-esteem and self-reliance. When the God of
his fathers appears in flaming fire and commissions him to go and
lead forth his oppressed people, Moses shrinks from the position,
and prays that it may be given to another. He is not eloquent; he
says, he is of stammering speech and a slow tongue, and he prays the
Lord to choose another. How often it happens that the work of the
world is thus put upon men who shrink from it,--not from indolence,
but from an exalted ideality, a high conception of the work to be
done! Moses was dumb and stammering with low-minded, vulgar-natured
men, as men who live high up in the radiant air of the nobler
feelings often are. How bring his great thoughts and purer feelings
down to their conceptions? He must have a spokesman, and evidently
regards his brother Aaron as better fitted to take the lead than

Aaron seems to be a specimen of that class of men--facile,
sympathetic, easily moved, and with a ready gift of words--whom
greater natures often admire for a facility and fluency which
their very greatness denies to them. And yet it is this Aaron who,
when Moses had been more than a month absent on the mount, was
carried away by the demand of the people to make them a visible
god; and who, if his brother had not cast himself down in agony of
intercession, would have been swept away by the Divine anger.

In the great scene of the national deliverance, after the passage
of the Red Sea, behold Moses and Miriam once more reunited in a
grand act of national triumph! A solemn procession goes forth on
the shores of the sea, and Moses leads the psalm of thanksgiving.
"And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in
her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and
with dances. And Miriam answered them, saying, Sing ye to the Lord,
for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he
thrown into the sea." The solemn union of man and woman in this
great public act of worship and thanksgiving, which inaugurated a
free nation, is indicative of the equality given to women by the
Divine Being in all that pertains to the spiritual and immortal. "On
your sons and _your daughters_," says the prophet Joel, "I will pour
out of my spirit, and _they_ shall prophesy"; and the same passage
is quoted by St. Peter as expressive of the genius of the opening
Christian dispensation. Thus we find at the opening of the Mosaic,
as well as the Christian dispensation, this announcement of the
equality of the sexes in their spiritual nature.

Many circumstances make it probable that as Moses and Miriam
unitedly led the devotions of the people on this most solemn of
national festivals, so they continued to be united in administrative
station during that important period when the national code of laws
and religious ritual were being crystallized and consolidated. We
infer from a passage in the prophet Micah,[3] that it was not in
mere brotherly fondness that Moses would have consulted this sister,
who had been to him as a mother, but that she was understood to be
one of the divinely appointed leaders of the people, and that he was
thus justified in leaning upon her for counsel.

  [3] Micah, who prophesied in the reign of Hezekiah, represents the
  Divine Being as thus addressing his people: "I brought thee up
  out of the land of Egypt; I sent before thee _Moses and Aaron and
  Miriam_" (Micah vi. 4). This is an indorsement more direct than any
  other prophetess ever received.

Moses was distinguished above all men we read of in history by a
singular absence of egoism. He was like a mother in the midst of the
great people whose sins, infirmities, and sorrows he bore upon his
heart with scarcely a consciousness of self. He had no personal
interests. He was a man so lowly and gentle of demeanor that all
his associates felt free to advise him. Thus his father-in-law,
Jethro, visiting him in the wilderness, expresses himself with
perfect freedom in regard to the excessive toil he is undergoing
in the care of the people, and suggests the appointment of elders
who should share the work of management. The eighteenth chapter
of Exodus is a beautiful picture of the character and demeanor
of Moses towards his father-in-law, and of his meek readiness to
take advice. It appears that in all the long, laborious journey
through the wilderness, Moses felt the burden and the responsibility
altogether more than the honor, and there is a despairing freedom
in the complaints he sometimes pours out to his God. Thus in one
of the periods of national discontent, when the people were all
"weeping and murmuring every man in his tent door," Moses says,
"Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and why have I not found
favor in thine eyes, that thou layest the burden of all this people
upon me? Have I conceived all this people,--have I begotten them,
that thou shouldst say, Carry them in thy bosom as a nursing father
beareth the sucking child, unto the land which thou swarest unto
their fathers? I am not able to bear all this people alone, because
it is too heavy for me. And if thou deal thus with me, kill me, I
pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favor in thy sight; and
let me not see my wretchedness." The answer to this prayer is the
appointment of seventy elders, under the care of God, to be sharers
in the responsibilities of Moses. This division of responsibility
seems to have relieved Moses, and he had not a thought of divided
honor, though it at once occurred to others with regard to him.
When the gift of prophecy descended upon some of these seventy
elders, it seems to have been imagined by some that this honor would
take from the dignity of Moses; and we are told (Num. xi. 28, 29),
"Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young
men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said
unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord's
people were prophets!" If now we consider this singular meekness
and unselfishness of Moses, we may easily see how it might be a
temptation to an ambitious, self-asserting spirit to cross beyond
the proper limit of advice and counsel into that of tyrannical

We have seen, in the few scenes where Miriam has appeared, that she
had a peculiar, prompt self-assertion and ready positiveness which
made leadership a necessity and a pleasure to her. She was a woman
to court rather than shrink from responsibility, and to feel to the
full all the personal dignity and glory which her rank and position
gave her; and, accordingly, the sacred narrative, which conceals no
fault, informs us how gradually these unwatched traits grew up into
the very worst form of selfish ambition. After all the trials and
sorrows of Moses, all the cabals and murmurings that wearied his
soul and made him feel that life was a burden to him, we come at
last to the severest trial of his life, when the sister and brother
on whom he had leaned joined against him. The whole incident,
recorded in Numbers xii., is most painful and most singular. "And
Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses on account of an Ethiopian
woman whom he had married." This is after the visit of his Midianite
father-in-law, Jethro, who brought back to Moses his wife and two
sons, from whom he had been long separated. It is supposed by some
that this "woman of Cush" is the person referred to. If Moses had to
this time been without a wife, he had been entirely devoted to his
sister. Now another female influence comes in,--the wife of Moses
may have felt disposed to assert her position among the women of
Israel, and thus a broil may have arisen. One can easily imagine
subjects of contention, and great vivacity of dissent, and the
authority of Moses would naturally be referred to as the supreme one.

Miriam and Aaron join together to repudiate that authority, and set
themselves up as equals. "And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken
_only_ by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by _us_? And the Lord heard
it. And the Lord spake suddenly to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, Come
out ye three unto the tabernacle of the congregation. And they three
came out. And the Lord came down in the pillar of cloud, and stood
in the door of the tabernacle, and called forth Moses and Aaron
and Miriam, and he said: Hear now my words. If there be a prophet
among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision,
and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who
is faithful in all my house. With him I will speak mouth to mouth,
even apparently, and not in dark speeches, and the similitude of the
Lord shall he behold. Wherefore, then, were ye not afraid to speak
against my servant Moses? And the anger of the Lord was kindled,
and the Lord departed from them, and the cloud departed from the
tabernacle; and behold Miriam became leprous, white as snow; and
Aaron looked upon Miriam, and behold she was leprous. And Aaron
said to Moses, Alas, my lord, lay not this sin upon us, wherein we
have done foolishly and wherein we have sinned. Let her not be as
one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out
of his mother's womb. And Moses cried unto the Lord, saying, Heal
her now, O Lord, I beseech thee." The answer given to Moses draws
a strong simile from the customs of those desert tribes where the
father holds almost the sacred place of a god in the family. If her
own father had expressed towards her the utmost extreme of mingled
indignation and loathing at her conduct, would she not be ashamed
for a while! And the command is given that she be shut out from the
camp for seven days.

It is evidence of the high position held by this woman, that the
whole camp of Israel waited during those seven days, while she was
suffering under this terrible rebuke. The severity of the rebuke and
punishment which fell upon Miriam seems at first sight excessive.
But we shall notice, in the whole line of the traditions with
respect to the prophetic office, the most complete unselfishness is
absolutely required. To use the prophetic gift in any manner for
personal ambition or aggrandizement, was sacrilege. The prophet must
be totally, absolutely without self. His divine gifts must never be
used for any personal and individual purpose, even for the relief
of utmost want. Thus the great prophets, Elijah and Elisha, gifted
with miraculous power, wandered hungry in the desert, and waited to
be fed by God. Thus Jesus, the Head of all the Prophets, when after
wandering forty days he was an hungered, refused the suggestion to
feed himself by his own miraculous power, and also the suggestion to
glorify himself by a public display of that power.

Miriam, as we have seen, had naturally a great many of those
personal traits which easily degenerate into selfish ambition. She
was self-confident, energetic, and self-asserting by nature, and she
had been associating with a brother whose peculiar unselfishness
and disposition to prefer others in honor before himself had given
full scope to her love of dictation. Undoubtedly, in most things her
influence and her advice had been good, and there had been, in her
leadership among the women of Israel, much that was valuable and
admirable. But one of the most fearful possibilities in our human
experience is the silent manner in which the divine essence exhales
from our virtues and they become first faults and afterward sins.
Sacred enthusiasms, solemn and awful trusts for noble purposes,
may, before we know it, degenerate into mere sordid implements of
personal ambition. In the solemn drama that has been represented in
Scripture, the punishment that falls on the prophetess symbolizes
this corruption. God departs from the selfish and self-seeking soul,
and, with God, all spiritual life. The living, life-giving, inspired
prophetess becomes a corrupt and corrupting leper. Such was the
awful lesson spoken in this symbol of leprosy; and, while the gifted
leader of Israel waited without the camp, the nation pondered it in

One cannot but wonder at the apparent disproportion of the
punishment upon Aaron. Yet, by careful observation, we shall find
it to be a general fact in the Divine dealings, that the sins of
weakness are less severely visited than the sins of strength.
Aaron's was evidently one of those weak and yielding natures that
are taken possession of by stronger ones, as absolutely as a child
is by a grown man. His was one of those sympathetic organizations
which cannot resist the force of stronger wills. All his sins are
the sins of this kind of temperament. To suffer bitterly, and
to repent deeply, is also essential to this nature; and in the
punishment which fell on the sister who had tempted him, Aaron was
more punished than in anything that could have befallen himself.
There is utter anguish and misery in the cry which he utters when he
sees his sister thus stricken.

There seems to have been a deep purpose in thus appointing to the
priestly office a man peculiarly liable to the sins and errors of
an excess of sympathy. The apostle says, that the proper idea of a
priest was one "who could have compassion on the ignorant, and on
them that are out of the way, for that he also is compassed with
infirmity." Among men such humility is only acquired by bitter
failures. At the same time a nature so soft and yielding could not
be smitten like a stronger one without being utterly destroyed.
Aaron appears to have been so really crushed and humbled by the
blow which struck his sister that he suffered all of which he was
capable. The whole office of the priest was one of confession and
humiliation. In every symbol and every ceremony he expressed a sense
of utmost unworthiness and need of a great expiation. It seems,
therefore, in sympathy with the great and merciful design of such
an office, that for its first incumbent should be chosen a man
representing the infirmity rather than the strength of humanity.
Our own experience in human nature is, that those who err from
too sympathetic an organization, and a weak facility in receiving
impressions from others, may yet have great hold on the affections
of men, and be the most merciful counsellors of the sinful and

The great Leader of Israel, who proclaimed his name through Moses
as forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, evidently fully
forgave and restored both Miriam and Aaron, since he remained in the
priestly office, and she is subsequently mentioned in Holy Writ as
an ordained prophetess.

After this scene in the desert we lose sight of Miriam entirely,
and are only reminded of her in one significant passage, where it
is said to Israel, "Remember what the Lord thy God did to Miriam by
the way, after ye were come forth from Egypt" (Deut. xxiv. 9). Her
death is recorded, Numbers xx. 1. Josephus gives an account of her
funeral obsequies, which were celebrated in the most solemn manner
for thirty days; the same honor was shown to a woman endowed with
the prophetic commission that was given to her brothers; and not
only so, but, as late as the time of St. Jerome, the tomb of Miriam
was shown as an object of veneration.

One thing in respect to the sacred and prophetic women of the
Jewish race is peculiar. They were uniformly, so far as appears,
married women and mothers of families, and not like the vestal
virgins of antiquity, set apart from the usual family duties of
women. Josephus mentions familiarly the husband of Miriam as
being Hur, the well-known companion and assistant of Moses on a
certain public occasion. He also refers to Bezaleel, one of the
architects who assisted in the erection of the tabernacle, as her
grandson. We shall find, by subsequent examination of the lives of
prophetic women who were called to be leaders in Israel, that they
came from the bosom of the family, and were literally, as well as
metaphorically, mothers in Israel. In the same year that Miriam
died, Aaron, her brother, was also laid to rest, and, of the three,
Moses remained alone.

It is remarkable that while Jewish tradition regarded Miriam
with such veneration, while we see her spoken of in Holy Writ as
a divinely appointed leader, yet there are none of her writings
transmitted to us, as in the case of other and less revered
prophetesses. The record of her fault and its punishment is given
with the frankness with which the Bible narrates the failings of
the very best; and, after that, nothing further is said. But it is
evident that that one fault neither shook her brother's love nor
the regard of the nation for her. Josephus expressly mentions that
the solemn funeral honors which were shown her, and which held the
nation as mourners for thirty days, were ordered and conducted by
Moses, who thus expressed his love and veneration for the sister who
watched his infancy and shared his labors. The national reverence
for Miriam is shown in the Rabbinic tradition, that, on account of
her courage and devotion in saving her brother's life at the Nile, a
spring of living water, of which the people drank, always followed
her footsteps through her wanderings in the wilderness. On her
death the spring became dry. No more touching proof of a nation's
affectionate memory can be given than a legend like this. Is it not
in a measure true of every noble, motherly woman?

Yet, like many of her sex who have watched the cradle of great
men, and been their guardians in infancy and their confidential
counsellors in maturity, Miriam is known by _Moses_ more than by

As sunshine reappears in the forms of the plants and flowers it
has stimulated into existence, so much of the power of noble women
appears, not in themselves, but in the men who are gradually molded
and modified by them. It was a worthy mission of a prophetess to
form a lawgiver. We cannot but feel that from the motherly heart
of this sister, associated with him in the prophetic office, Moses
must have gained much of that peculiar knowledge of the needs and
wants and feelings of women which in so many instances shaped his

The law which protected the children of an unbeloved wife from
a husband's partiality, the law which secured so much delicacy
and consideration to a captive woman, the law which secured
the marriage-rights of the purchased slave and forbade making
merchandise of her, the law which gave to the newly married wife
the whole of the first year of her husband's time and attention,
are specimens of what we mean when we say that the influence of a
noble-hearted woman passed into the laws of Moses. No man could be
more chivalric or more ready to protect, but it required a woman's
heart to show where protection was most needed, and we see in all
these minute guardings of family life why the Divine Being speaks
of a woman as being divinely associated with the great lawgiver: "I
sent before you Moses and Aaron and Miriam."

Thus a noble womanly influence passed through Moses into permanent
institutions. The nation identified her with the MAN who was their
glory, and Miriam became immortal in Moses.



The Book of Judges is the record of a period which may be called
the Dark Ages of the Jewish Church, even as the mediæval days were
called the Dark Ages of Christianity. In both cases, a new system of
purity and righteousness, wholly in advance of anything the world
had ever before known, had been inaugurated by the visible power
of God,--the system of Moses, and the system of Christ. But these
pure systems seem, in each case, to have been allowed to struggle
their own way through the mass of human ignorance and sin. The
ideal policy of Moses was that of an ultra-democratic community,
so arranged that perforce there must be liberty, fraternity, and
equality. There was no chance for overgrown riches or abject
poverty. Landed property was equally divided in the outset, and a
homestead allowed to each family. Real estate could not be alienated
from a family for more than a generation; after that period, it
returned again to its original possessor. The supreme law of the
land was love. Love, first, to the God and Father, the invisible
head of all; and secondly, towards the neighbor, whether a Jewish
brother or a foreigner and stranger. The poor, the weak, the
enslaved, the old, the deaf, the blind, were protected by solemn
and specific enactments. The person of woman was hedged about by
restraints and ordinances which raised her above the degradation of
sensuality to the honored position of wife and mother. Motherhood
was exalted into special honor, and named as equal with fatherhood
in the eye of God. "Ye shall fear every man _his mother_ and his
father, and keep my Sabbaths: I am the Lord." (Lev. xix. 3.)

Refinement of feeling, personal cleanliness, self-restraint, order,
and purity were taught by a system of ordinances and observances,
which were intertwined through all the affairs of life, so that
the Jew who lived up to his law must of necessity rise to a noble
manhood. But this system, so ideally perfect, encountered an age
of darkness. Like all beautiful ideals, the theocratic republic
of Moses suffered under the handling of coarse human fingers.
Without printed books or printing, or any of the thousand modern
means of perpetuating ideas, the Jews were constantly tempted to
lapse into the customs of the heathen tribes around. The question
whether Jehovah or Baal were God was kept open for discussion, and
sometimes, for long periods, idolatry prevailed. Then came the
subjugation and the miseries of a foreign yoke, and the words of
Moses were fulfilled: "Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God,
with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of
all things, therefore shalt thou serve the enemy whom the Lord shall
send against thee, in hunger and in thirst, and in nakedness, and
in want of all things; and he shall put a yoke of iron on thy neck,
till he have destroyed thee."

The history of the Jewish nation, in the Book of Judges, presents
a succession of these periods of oppression, and of deliverance by
a series of divinely inspired leaders, sent in answer to repentant
prayers. It is entirely in keeping with the whole character of the
Mosaic institutions, and the customs of the Jewish people, that one
of these inspired deliverers should be a woman. We are not surprised
at the familiar manner in which it is announced, as a thing quite in
the natural order, that the chief magistrate of the Jewish nation,
for the time being, was a woman divinely ordained and gifted. Thus
the story is introduced:--

"And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord when
Ehud was dead, and the Lord sold them into the hands of Jabin, King
of Canaan, that reigned in Hasor, the captain of whose host was
Sisera, which dwelt in Harosheth of the Gentiles. And the children
of Israel cried unto the Lord; for he had nine hundred chariots of
iron, and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
And Deborah, the prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel
at that time. And she dwelt under the palm-tree of Deborah, between
Ramah and Bethel, in Mount Ephraim, and the children of Israel came
up to her for judgment. And she sent and called Barak, the son of
Abinoam, and said unto him: Hath not the Lord God of Israel said, Go
draw towards Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the
children of Zebulun and the children of Naphtali? And I will draw
unto thee, at the river Kishon, Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army,
with his chariots and his multitude, and I will deliver him into thy
hands. And Barak said: If _thou_ wilt go with me, I will go; but if
thou wilt not go with me, I will not go. And she said: I will surely
go with thee; notwithstanding, the journey that thou takest shall
not be for thine honor, for the Lord shall sell Sisera into the hand
of a woman."

In all this we have a picture of the reverence and confidence with
which, in those days, the inspired woman was regarded. The palm-tree
which shaded her house becomes a historical monument, and is spoken
of as a well-known object. The warlike leader of the nation comes
to her submissively, listens to her message as to a divine oracle,
and obeys. He dares not go up to battle without her, but if she will
go he will follow her. The prophetess is a wife, but her husband
is known to posterity only through her. Deborah was the wife of
Lapidoth, and therefore Lapidoth is had in remembrance even down to
our nineteenth century.

This class of prophetic and inspired women appear to have been
the poets of their time. They were, doubtless, possessed of that
fine ethereal organization, fit to rise into the higher regions
of ecstasy, wherein the most exalted impressions and enthusiasms
spring, as birds under tropic sunshine. The Jewish woman was
intensely patriotic. She was a living, breathing impersonation
of the spirit of her nation; and the hymn of victory chanted by
Deborah, after the issue of the conflict, is one of the most
spirited specimens of antique poetry. In order to sympathize with
it fully, we must think of the condition of woman in those days,
when under the heel of the oppressor. The barriers and protections
which the laws of Moses threw around the Jewish women inspired in
them a sense of self-respect and personal dignity which rendered the
brutal outrages inflicted upon captives yet more intolerable. The
law of Moses commanded the Jewish warrior who took a captive woman
to respect her person and her womanhood. If he desired her, it must
be as a lawful wife; and even as a husband he must not force himself
at once upon her. He must bring her to his house, and allow her a
month to reconcile herself to her captivity, before he took her to
himself. But among the nations around, woman was the prey of whoever
could seize and appropriate her.

The killing of Sisera by Jael has been exclaimed over by modern
sentimentalists as something very shocking. But let us remember how
the civilized world felt when, not long since, the Austrian tyrant
Heynau outraged noble Hungarian and Italian women, subjecting them
to brutal stripes and indignities. When the civilized world heard
that he had been lynched by the brewers of London,--cuffed, and
pommeled, and rolled in the dust--shouts of universal applause went
up, and the verdict of society was, "Served him right." Deborah
saw, in the tyrant thus overthrown, the ravisher and brutal tyrant
of helpless women, and she extolled the spirit by which Jael had
entrapped the ferocious beast, whom her woman's weakness could not
otherwise have subdued.

There is a beautiful commentary on the song of Deborah in Herder's
"Spirit of Hebrew Poetry." He gives a charming translation, to
which we refer any one who wishes to study the oldest poem by a
female author on record. The verse ascribed to Miriam seems to have
been only the chorus of the song of Moses, and, for aught that
appears, may have been composed by him; but this song of Deborah is
of herself alone. It is one of the noblest expressions of devout
patriotism in literature.

We subjoin a version of this poem, in which we have modified, in
accordance with Herder, some passages of our ordinary translation.

    "Praise ye Jehovah for the avenging of Israel,
    When the people willingly offered themselves.
    Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes.
    I will sing praise to Jehovah;
    I will praise Jehovah, God of Israel.
    Jehovah, when thou wentest out from Seir,
    When thou marchedst from Edom,
    The earth trembled and the heavens dropped,
    The clouds also poured down water."

The song now changes, to picture the miseries of an enslaved people,
who were deprived of arms and weapons, and exposed at any hour and
moment to the incursions of robbers and murderers:--

    "In the days of Shamgar, the son of Anath,
    In the days of Jael,
    The highways were unoccupied,
    And travelers walked through by-ways.
    The inhabitants ceased from the villages,
    Till I, Deborah, arose.
    I arose a mother in Israel.
    They went after strange gods;
    Then came the war to their gates.
    Was there then a shield or a spear
    Among forty thousand in Israel?"

The theme then changes, to celebrate those whose patriotic bravery
had redeemed their country:--

    "My heart throbs to the governors of Israel
    That offered themselves willingly among the people.
              Bless ye Jehovah!
    Speak, ye that ride on white asses,
    Ye that sit in judgment, and ye that walk by the way,
    They that are delivered from the noise of archers
    In the place of drawing water,
    There shall they rehearse the righteous acts of Jehovah,
    His righteous acts towards the inhabitants of the villages.
    Then shall the people go down to the gates.
    Awake! awake! Deborah,
    Awake! awake! utter a song!
    Arise, Barak, and lead captivity captive,
    Thou son of Abinoam!"

After this, another change: she reviews, with all a woman's fiery
eloquence, the course which the tribes have taken in the contest,
giving praise to the few courageous, self-sacrificing patriots, and
casting arrows of satire and scorn on the cowardly and selfish. For
then, as in our modern times, there were all sorts of men. There
were those of the brave, imprudent, generous, "do-or-die" stamp,
and there were the selfish conservatives, who only waited and
talked. So she says:--

    "It was but a small remnant that went forth against the mighty.
    The people of Jehovah went with me against the mighty.
    The march began with Ephraim,
    The root of the army was from him;
    With him didst thou come, Benjamin!
    Out of Machir came down the leaders;
    Out of Zebulun the marshals of forces;
    And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah.
    Issachar, the life-guard of Barak,
    Sprang like a hind into the battle-field!"

It appears that the tribe of Reuben had only been roused so far as
to _talk_ about the matter. They had been brought up to the point of
an animated discussion whether they should help or not. The poetess
thus jeers at them:--

    "By the brooks of Reuben there were great talkings and inquiries.
    Why abodest thou in thy sheepfolds, Reuben?
    Was it to hear the bleating of the flocks?
    By the brooks of Reuben were great talks [but nothing more].
    Gilead, too, abode beyond Jordan;
    And why did Dan remain in his ships?
    Asher stayed on the sea-shore and remained in his harbor.
    Zebulun and Naphtali risked their lives unto the death
    In the high places of the field of battle."

Now comes the description of the battle. It appears that a sudden
and violent rain-storm and an inundation helped to rout the enemy
and gain the victory; and the poetess breaks forth:--

    "The kings came and fought;
    The kings of Canaan in Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
    They brought away no treasure.
    They fought; from heaven the stars in their courses
    They fought against Sisera.
    The river Kishon swept them down,
    That ancient river, Kishon.
    O my soul! walk forth with strength!
    Then was the rattling of hoofs of horses!
    They rushed back,--the horses of the mighty."

And now the solemn sound of a prophetic curse:--

    "Curse ye Meroz, saith the angel of Jehovah,
    Curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof,
    Because they came not to the help of Jehovah,
    To the help of Jehovah against the mighty!"

Then follows a burst of blessing on the woman who had slain the
oppressor; in which we must remember, it is a woman driven to the
last extreme of indignation at outrages practiced on her sex that
thus rejoices. When the tiger who has slain helpless women and
children is tracked to his lair, snared, and caught, a shout of
exultation goes up; and there are men so cruel and brutal that even
humanity rejoices in their destruction. There is something repulsive
in the thought of the artifice and treachery that beguiled and
betrayed the brigand chief. But woman cannot meet her destroyer in
open, hand-to-hand conflict. She is thrown perforce on the weapons
of physical weakness; and Deborah exults in the success of the
artifice with all the warmth of her indignant soul.

    "Blessed above women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite!
    Blessed shall she be above women in the tent!
    He asked water and she gave him milk;
    She brought forth butter in a lordly dish.
    She put her hand to the nail,
    Her right hand to the workman's hammer.
    With the hammer she smote Sisera,
    She smote off his head.
    When she had stricken through his temple,
    At her feet he bowed, he fell, he lay prostrate.
    At her feet he bowed, he fell.
    Where he bowed, there he fell down dead!"

The outrages on wives, mothers, and little children, during twenty
years of oppression, gives energy to this blessing on the woman who
dared to deliver.

By an exquisite touch of the poetess, we are reminded what must have
been the fate of all Judæan women except for this nail of Jael.

    "The mother of Sisera looked out at a window.
    She cried through the lattice,
    Why delay the wheels of his chariot?
    Why tarries the rattle of his horse-hoofs?
    Her wise ladies answered: yea, she spake herself.
    Have they not won? Have they not divided the prey?
    To every man a virgin or two;
    To Sisera a prey of divers colors, of divers colors and gold
    Meet for the necks of them that take the spoil."

In the reckoning of this haughty princess, a noble Judæan lady,
with her gold embroideries and raiment of needle-work, is only an
ornament meet for the neck of the conqueror,--a toy, to be paraded
in triumph. The song now rises with one grand, solemn swell, like
the roll of waves on the sea-shore:--

    "So let all thine enemies perish, O Jehovah!
    But let them that love thee shine forth as the sun in his strength."

And as this song dies away, so passes all mention of Deborah. No
other fragment of poetry or song from her has come down from her
age to us. This one song, like a rare fragment of some deep-sea
flower, broken off by a storm of waters, has floated up to tell
of her. We shall see, as we follow down the line of history, that
women of this lofty poetic inspiration were the natural product of
the Jewish laws and institutions. They grew out of them, as certain
flowers grow out of certain soils. To this class belonged Hannah,
the mother of Samuel, and Huldah, the prophetess, and, in the
fullness of time, Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose _Magnificat_ was
the earliest flower of the Christian era. Mary was prophetess and
poet, the last and greatest of a long and noble line of women, in
whom the finer feminine nature had been kindled into a divine medium
of inspiration, and burst forth in poetry and song as in a natural



The pictures of womanhood in the Bible are not confined to subjects
of the better class.

There is always a shadow to light; and shadows are deep, intense,
in proportion as light is vivid. There is in bad women a terrible
energy of evil which lies over against the angelic and prophetic
power given to them, as Hell against Heaven.

In the long struggles of the Divine Lawgiver with the idolatrous
tendencies of man, the evil as well as the good influence of
woman is recognized. There are a few representations of loathsome
vice and impurity left in the sacred records, to show how utterly
and hopelessly corrupt the nations had become whom the Jews were
commanded to exterminate. Incurable licentiousness and unnatural
vice had destroyed the family state, transformed religious services
into orgies of lust, and made woman a corrupter, instead of a
saviour. The idolatrous temples and groves and high places against
which the prophets continually thunder were scenes of abominable
vice and demoralization.

No danger of the Jewish race is more insisted on in sacred history
and literature than the bad power of bad women, and the weakness of
men in their hands. Whenever idolatry is introduced among them it is
always largely owing to the arts and devices of heathen women.

The story of Samson seems to have been specially arranged as a
warning in this regard. It is a picture drawn in such exaggerated
colors and proportions that it might strike the lowest mind and be
understood by the dullest. As we have spoken of the period of the
Judges as corresponding to the Dark Ages of Christianity, so the
story of Samson corresponds in some points with the mediæval history
of St. Christopher. In both is presented the idea of a rugged
animal nature, the impersonation of physical strength, without
much moral element, but seized on and used by a divine impulse for
a beneficent purpose. Samson had strength, and he used it to keep
alive this sacerdotal nation, this race from whom were to spring the
future apostles and prophets and teachers of our Christianity.

Like some unknown plant of rare flower and fruit, cast out to
struggle in ungenial soil, nipped, stunted, browsed down by cattle,
trodden down by wild beasts, the Jewish race, in the times of the
Book of Judges showed no capability of producing such men as Isaiah
and Paul and John, much less Jesus. Yet, humanly speaking, in this
stock, now struggling for bare national existence, and constantly
in danger of being trampled out, was contained the capacity of
unfolding, through Divine culture, such heavenly blossoms as Jesus
and his apostles.

In fact, then, the Christian religion, with all its possibilities
of hope and happiness for the human race, lay at this period
germinant, in seed form, in a crushed and struggling race. Hence the
history of Samson; hence the reason why he who possessed scarcely
a moral element of character is spoken of as under the guidance
of the Spirit of the Lord. A blind impulse inspired him to fight
for the protection of his nation against the barbarous tribes that
threatened their destruction, and with this impulse came rushing
floods of preternatural strength. With the history of this inspired
giant is entwined that of a woman whose name has come to stand as
a generic term for a class,--Delilah! It is astonishing with what
wonderful dramatic vigor a few verses create before us this woman so
vividly and so perfectly that she has been recognized from age to

Delilah! not the frail sinner falling through too much love; not the
weak, downtrodden woman, the prey of man's superior force; but the
terrible creature, artful and powerful, who triumphs over man, and
uses man's passions for her own ends, without an answering throb of
passion. As the strength of Samson lies in his hair, so the strength
of Delilah lies in her hardness of heart. If she could love, her
power would depart from her. Love brings weakness and tears that
make the hand tremble and the eye dim. But she who cannot love
is guarded at all points; _her_ hand never trembles, and no soft,
fond weakness dims her eye so that she cannot see the exact spot
where to strike. Delilah has her wants,--she wants money, she wants
power,--and men are her instruments; she will make them her slaves
to do her pleasure.

Samson, like the great class of men in whom physical strength
predominates, appears to have been constitutionally good-natured and
persuadable, with a heart particularly soft towards woman. He first
falls in love with a Philistine woman whom he sees, surrendering
almost without parley. His love is animal passion, with good-natured
softness of temper; it is inconsiderate, insisting on immediate
gratification. Though a Nazarite, vowed to the service of the Lord,
yet happening to see this woman, he says forthwith: "I have seen a
woman in Timnath, of the daughters of the Philistines; therefore
get her for me for a wife. Then said his father and his mother, Is
there never a woman of the daughters of thy people, that thou goest
to take a Philistine woman to wife? But he said, Get her for me; for
she pleaseth me well."

She is got; and then we find the strong man, through his passion
for her, becoming the victim of the Philistines. He puts out a
riddle for them to guess. "And they said to Samson's wife, Entice
thy husband that he may declare unto us the riddle. And Samson's
wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest
me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people
and hast not told me. And she wept before him seven days, and on the
seventh day he told her." A picture this of what has been done in
kings' palaces and poor men's hovels ever since,--man's strength was
overcome and made the tool of woman's weakness.

We have now a record of the way this wife was taken from him, and
of the war he declared against the Philistines, and of exploits
which caused him to be regarded as the champion of his nation by the
Hebrews, and as a terror by his enemies. He holds them in check, and
defends his people, through a course of years; and could he have
ruled his own passions, he might have died victorious. The charms of
a Philistine woman were stronger over the strong man than all the
spears or swords of his enemies.

The rest of the story reads like an allegory, so exactly does it
describe that unworthy subservience of man to his own passions,
wherein bad women in all ages have fastened poisonous roots of
power. The man is deceived and betrayed, with his eyes open, by a
woman whom he does not respect, and who he can see is betraying him.
The story is for all time. The temptress says: "How canst thou say,
I love thee, when thy heart is not with me? Thou hast mocked me
these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength
lieth. And it came to pass when she pressed him daily with her
words, and urged him so that his soul was vexed to death, that he
told her all his heart." Then Delilah runs at once to her employers.
"She sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up
this once, he hath told me all his heart. And she made him sleep
upon her knees; and called for a man, and bade him shave off the
seven locks, and his strength went from him. And she said, The
Philistines be upon thee, Samson, and he awoke and said, I will go
out and shake myself, as at other times, and he wist not that the
Lord was departed from him. But the Philistines took him, and put on
him fetters of brass, and he did grind in their prison house."

Thus ignobly ends the career of a deliverer whose birth was promised
to his parents by an angel, who was vowed to God, and had the gift
of strength to redeem a nation. Under the wiles of an evil woman he
lost all, and sunk lower than any slave into irredeemable servitude.

The legends of ancient history have their parallels. Hercules,
the deliverer, made the scoff and slave of Omphale, and Antony,
become the tool and scorn of Cleopatra, are but repetitions of the
same story. Samson victorious, all-powerful, carrying the gates
of Gaza on his back, the hope of his countrymen and the terror of
his enemies; and Samson shorn, degraded, bound, eyeless, grinding
in the prison-house of those he might have subdued,--such was the
lesson given to the Jews of the power of the evil woman. And the
story which has repeated itself from age to age, is repeating itself
to-day. There are women on whose knees men sleep, to awaken shorn
of manliness, to be seized, bound, blinded, and made to grind in
unmanly servitude forever.

    "She hath cast down many wounded,
    Yea, many strong men hath she slain;
    Her house is the way to Hell,
    Going down to the chambers of Death."

[Illustration: JEPHTHA'S DAUGHTER]


This story, which has furnished so many themes for the poet and
artist, belongs, like that of Samson, to the stormy and unsettled
period of Jewish history which is covered by the Book of Judges.

Jephtha, an illegitimate son, is cast out by his brethren, goes off
into a kind of border-land, and becomes, in that turbulent period, a
leader of a somewhat powerful tribe.

These times of the Judges remind us forcibly, in some respects, of
the chivalric ages. There was the same opportunity for an individual
to rise to power by personal valor, and become an organizer and
leader in society. A brave man was a nucleus around whom gathered
others less brave, seeking protection, and the individual in time
became a chieftain. The bravery of Jephtha was so great, and his
power and consideration became such, that when his native land was
invaded by the Ammonites, he was sent for by a solemn assembly of
his people, and appointed their chief. Jephtha appears, from the
story, to have been a straightforward, brave, generous, God-fearing

The story of his vow is briefly told. "And Jephtha vowed a vow unto
the Lord and said, If thou wilt without fail deliver the children
of Ammon into my hands, then it shall be that whatsoever cometh
first out of my door to meet me, when I return, shall be the Lord's,
and I will offer it as a whole offering unto the Lord." The vow
was recorded, a great victory was given, and the record says, "And
Jephtha came to Mizpah, unto his house, and behold, his daughter
came out to meet him with timbrels. She was his only child, and
beside her he had neither son nor daughter. And it came to pass,
when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas! my
daughter, thou hast brought me very low; for I have opened my mouth
to the Lord, and cannot go back. And she said, My father, if thou
hast opened thy mouth to the Lord, do to me according to that which
hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the Lord hath taken
vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even the children of Ammon.
And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: Let
me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains
to bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. And he said, Go. And he
sent her away for two months, and she went with her companions and
bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. And it came to pass at
the end of two months, that she returned to her father, who did with
her according to his vow."

And what was that? The popular version generally has been that
Jephtha killed his daughter, and offered her a burnt sacrifice.
Josephus puts this interpretation upon it, saying that "he
offered such an oblation as was neither conformable to the law
nor acceptable to God; not weighing with himself what opinion the
hearers would have of such a practice." A large and very learned and
respectable body of commentators among the Jews, both ancient and
modern, deny this interpretation, and, as appears to us, for the
best of reasons.

Jephtha was a Jew, and human sacrifice was above all things
abhorrent to the Jewish law and to the whole national feeling. There
is full evidence, in other pictures of life and manners given in
the Book of Judges, that in spite of the turbulence of the times,
there were in the country many noble, God-fearing men and women who
intelligently understood and practiced the wise and merciful system
of Moses.

Granting that Jephtha, living in the heathen border-land, had
mingled degrading superstitions with his faith, it seems improbable
that such men as Boaz, the husband of Ruth, Elkanah, the husband of
Hannah, Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson, and the kind
of people with whom they associated, could have accepted, as Judge
of Israel, a man whom their laws would regard as guilty of such a
crime. Besides, the Jewish law contained direct provisions for such
vows. In three or four places in the Jewish law, it is expressly
stated that where a human being comes into the position of a whole
offering to God, the life of that human being is not to be taken;
and a process of substitution and redemption is pointed out. Thus
the first-born of all animals and the first-born of all men were
alike commanded to be made whole offerings to the Lord: the animals
were slain and burnt, but the human being was redeemed. No one can
deny that all these considerations establish a strong probability.

Finally, when historians and commentators are divided as to a
fact, we are never far out of the way in taking that solution
which is most honorable to our common human nature, and the most
in accordance with our natural wishes. We suppose, therefore, that
the daughter of Jephtha was simply taken from the ordinary life of
woman, and made an offering to the Lord. She could be no man's wife;
and with the feelings which were had in those days as to marriage,
such a lot was to be lamented as the cutting off of all earthly
hopes. It put an end to the house of Jephtha, as besides her he had
no son or daughter, and it accounts for the language with which
the account closes, "She knew not a man,"--a wholly unnecessary
statement, if it be meant to say that she was killed. The more we
reflect upon it, the more probable it seems that this is the right
view of the matter.

The existence from early times among the Jews of an order of women
who renounced the usual joys and privileges of the family state,
to devote themselves to religious and charitable duties, is often
asserted. Walter Scott, a learned authority as to antiquities, and
one who seldom made a representation without examination, makes
Rebecca, in Ivanhoe, declare to Rowena that from earliest times such
an order of women had existed among her people, and to them she
purposes to belong.

We cannot leave the subject without pausing to wonder at the
exquisite manner in which the historian, whoever he was, has set
before us a high and lovely ideal of womanhood in this Judæan girl.
There is but a sentence, yet what calmness, what high-mindedness,
what unselfish patriotism, are in the words! "My father, if thou
hast opened thy mouth to the Lord, do to me according to thy
promise, forasmuch as the Lord hath taken vengeance on thine
enemies, the children of Ammon."

Whatever it was to which she so calmly acceded, it was to her the
death of all earthly hope, calmly accepted in the very flush and
morning tide of victory. How heroic the soul that could meet so
sudden a reverse with so unmoved a spirit!


The story of Hannah is a purely domestic one, and is most valuable
in unveiling the intimate and trustful life of faith that existed
between the Jehovah revealed in the Old Testament and each separate
soul, however retired and humble. It is not God the Lawgiver and
King, but, if we may so speak, God in his private and confidential
relations to the individual. The story opens briefly, after the
fashion of the Bible, whose brevity in words is such a contrast to
the tediousness of most professed sacred books.

"There was a man," says the record, "named Elkanah, and he had two
wives; and the name of the one was Hannah, and the name of the
other Peninnah, and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none."
Hannah, from the story, appears to have had one of those intense
natures, all nerve and sensibility, on which every trouble lies with
double weight. The lack of children in an age when motherhood was
considered the essential glory of woman, was to her the climax of
anguish and mortification. Nor was there wanting the added burden
of an unfriendly party to notice and to inflame the hidden wound by
stinging commentaries; for we are told that "her adversary provoked
her sore, to make her fret." And thus, year by year, as the family
went up to the sacred feast at Shiloh, and other exultant mothers
displayed their fair sons and daughters, the sacred feast was turned
into gall for the unblest one, and we are told that Hannah "wept and
did not eat." "Then said Elkanah unto her, Hannah, why weepest thou?
and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved? Am I not
better to thee than ten sons?"

Hannah was one of a class of women in whom genius and a poetic
nature are struggling with a vague intensity, giving the keenest
edge to desire and to disappointment. All Judæan women desire
children, but Hannah had that vivid sense of nationality, that
identification of self with the sublime future of her people, that
made it bitter to be excluded from all share in those hopes and
joys of motherhood from which the earth's deliverer was to spring.
She desired a son, as poets desire song, as an expression of all
that was heroic and unexpressed in herself, and as a tribute to the
future glories of her people. A poet stricken with paralysis might
suffer as she suffered. But it was a kind and degree of sorrow, the
result of an exceptional nature, which few could comprehend. To some
it would afford occasion only for vulgar jests. Even her husband,
devoted as he was, wondered at rather than sympathised with it.

It appears that there rose at last one of those flood-tides of
feeling when the soul cries out for relief, and _must_ have a
Helper; and Hannah bethought her of the words of Moses, "What nation
is there that hath their God _so nigh_ unto them as the Lord our
God is unto us, for all that we call unto him for?" It is precisely
for such sorrows--intimate, private, personal, and not to be
comprehended fully by any earthly friend--that an All-seeing, loving
Father is needed. And Hannah followed the teachings of her religion
when she resolved to make a confidant of her God, and ask of him the
blessing her soul fainted for. She chose the sacred feast at Shiloh
for the interview with the gracious Helper; and, after the festival,
remained alone in the holy place in an ecstasy of fervent prayer.
The narrative says: "And she was in bitterness of soul and prayed
unto the Lord and wept sore. And she vowed a vow and said, O Lord of
Hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid,
and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but will give unto
thine handmaid a man-child, then will I give him unto the Lord all
the days of his life. And it came to pass as she continued praying
before the Lord, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah she spake
in her heart, only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard;
therefore Eli thought she had been drunken."

He--dear, kind-hearted, blundering old priest--reproved her with
about as much tact as many similar, well-meaning, obtuse people use
nowadays in the management of natures whose heights and depths they
cannot comprehend. Hannah meekly answers: "No, my lord, I am a woman
of a sorrowful spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink,
but have poured out my soul before the Lord. Count not thy handmaid
for a daughter of Belial, for out of the abundance of my complaint
and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in
peace, the God of Israel grant thee thy petition thou hast asked of
him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So
the woman went her way and did eat, and her countenance was no more

This experience illustrates that kind of prevailing prayer that
comes when the soul, roused to the full intensity of its being by
the pressure of some anguish, pours itself out like a wave into the
bosom of its God. The very outgush is a relief; there is healing in
the very act of self-abandonment, as the whole soul casts itself
on God. And though there be no present fulfillment, yet, in point
of fact, peace and rest come to the spirit. Hannah had no voice
of promise, no external sign, only the recorded promise of God to
hear prayer; but the prayer brought relief. All the agony of desire
passed away. Her countenance was no more sad. In due time, the
visible answer came. Hannah was made the happy mother of a son, whom
she called Samuel, or "Asked of God."

This year, when the family went up to Shiloh, Hannah remained with
her infant; for she said to her husband, "I will not go up until
the child be weaned; and then will I bring him that he may appear
before the Lord, and there abide forever." The period of weaning
was of a much later date among Jewish women than in modern times;
and we may imagine the little Samuel three or four years old when
his mother prepares, with all solemnity, to carry him and present
him in the temple as her offering to God. "And when she had weaned
him she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one ephah of
flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the
Lord in Shiloh; and the child was young. And they slew a bullock,
and brought the child to Eli. And she said, O my lord, as thy soul
liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here praying
unto the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me
my petition which I asked of him. Therefore also have I lent him to
the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And she
worshiped the Lord there."

And now the depths of this silent woman's soul break forth into
a song of praise and thanksgiving. Hannah rises before us as the
inspired poetess, and her song bears a striking resemblance in theme
and in cast of thought to that of Mary the mother of Jesus, years
after. Indeed, there is in the whole history of this sacred and
consecrated child, a foreshadowing of that more celestial flower of
Nazareth that should yet arise from the Judæan stock. This idea of
a future Messiah and King permeated every pious soul in the nation,
and gave a solemn intensity to the usual rejoicings of motherhood;
for who knew whether the auspicious child might not spring from
her lineage! We see, in the last verse of this poem, that Hannah's
thoughts in her hour of joy fix themselves on the glorious future of
the coming King and Anointed One as the climax of her joy.

It will be interesting to compare this song of Hannah with that of
Mary, and notice how completely the ideas of the earlier mother
had melted and transfused themselves into the heart of Mary. Years
after, when the gathering forces of the Church and State were
beginning to muster themselves against Martin Luther, and he stood
as one man against a world, he took refuge in this song of the happy
woman; printed it as a tract, with pointed commentaries, and spread
it all over Europe; and in thousands of hamlets hearts were beating
to the heroic words of the Judæan mother:--

    "My heart rejoiceth in Jehovah,
    My horn is exalted in Jehovah;
    My speech shall flow out over my enemies,
    Because I rejoice in thy salvation.
    There is none holy as Jehovah:
    For there is none beside thee:
    Neither is there any rock like our God.
    Talk no more so exceeding proudly;
    Let not arrogance come out of thy mouth:
    For Jehovah is a God of knowledge,
    By him are actions weighed.
    The bows of mighty men are broken,
    But the weak are girded with strength.
    The rich have hired out for bread;
    But the hungry cease from want.
    The barren woman hath borne seven;
    The fruitful one hath grown feeble.
    Jehovah killeth and maketh alive;
    He bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up.
    Jehovah maketh poor and maketh rich;
    He bringeth low, and lifteth up.
    He raiseth the poor out of the dust,
    He lifteth the beggar from the dunghill,
    To set them among princes,
    To make them inherit the throne of glory;
    For the pillars of the earth are Jehovah's,
    He hath set the world upon them.
    He will keep the feet of his saints,
    The wicked shall be silent in darkness;
    For by strength no man shall prevail.
    The adversaries of Jehovah shall be broken to pieces;
    Out of heaven shall he thunder upon them.
    Jehovah shall judge the ends of the earth;
    He shall give strength unto his King,
    And exalt the horn of his Anointed."

This song shows the fire, the depth, the fervency of the nature of
this woman, capable of rising to the sublimest conceptions. It is
the ecstasy of the triumph of conscious weakness in an omnipotent
protector. Through her own experience, as it is with every true
soul, she passes to the experience of universal humanity; in her
Deliverer she sees the Deliverer and Helper of all the helpless and
desolate; and thus, through the gate of personal experience, she
comes to a wide sympathy with all who live. She loves her God, not
mainly and only for what he is to her, but for what he is to all.
How high and splendid were these conceptions and experiences that
visited and hallowed the life of the simple and lowly Jewish woman
in those rugged and unsettled periods, and what beautiful glimpses
do we get of the good and honest-hearted people that lived at that
time in Palestine, and went up yearly to worship at Shiloh!

After this we have a few more touches in this beautiful story. The
little one remained in the temple; for it is said, "And Samuel
ministered before the Lord, being a child, girded with a linen
ephod. Moreover, his mother made him a little coat and brought it to
him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer
the yearly sacrifice." How the little one was cared for the story
does not say. In some passages of the Bible, we have intimations
of an order of consecrated women who devoted themselves to the
ministries of the temple, like Anna the prophetess, "who departed
not from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayer, night
and day." Doubtless from the hands of such were motherly ministries.
One rejoices to hear that the Gracious Giver blessed this mother
abundantly more than she asked or thought; for we are told that a
family of three sons and two daughters were given to her.

We cannot forbear to add to this story that of the sacred little
one, who grew fair as the sheltered lily in the house of God. Child
of prayer, born in the very ardor and ecstasy of a soul uplifted
to God, his very nature seemed heavenly, and the benignant Father
early revealed himself to him, choosing him as a medium for divine
messages. One of the most thrilling and poetic passages in the Bible
describes the first call of the Divine One to the consecrated child.
The lamps burning in the holy place; the little one lying down to
sleep; the mysterious voice calling him; his innocent wonder, and
the slow perception of old Eli of the true significance of the
event,--all these form a beautiful introduction to the life of the
last and most favored of those prophetic magistrates who interpreted
to the Jewish people the will of God. Samuel was the last of the
Judges,--the strongest, the purest, and most blameless,--the worthy
son of such a mother.

[Illustration: RUTH]


The story of Ruth is a beautiful idyl of domestic life, opening to
us in the barbarous period of the _Judges_. In reading some of the
latter chapters of that book, one might almost think that the system
of Moses had proved a failure, and that the nation was lapsing back
into the savage state of the heathen world around them; just as,
in reading the history of the raids and feuds of the Middle Ages,
one might consider Christianity a failure. But in both cases there
were nooks and dells embosomed in the wild roughness of unsettled
society, where good and honest hearts put forth blossoms of immortal
sweetness and perfume. This history of Ruth unveils to us pictures
of the best people and the best sort of life that were formed by the
laws and institutes of Moses,--a life pastoral, simple, sincere,
reverential, and benevolent.

The story is on this wise: A famine took place in the land of Judah,
and a man named Elimelech went with his wife and two sons to sojourn
in the land of Moab. The sons took each of them a wife of the
daughters of Moab, and they dwelt there about ten years. After that,
the man and both the sons died, and the mother, with her two widowed
young daughters, prepared to return to her kindred. Here the scene
of the little drama opens.

The mother, Naomi, comes to our view, a kind-hearted, commonplace
woman, without any strong religious faith or possibility of heroic
exaltation,--just one of those women who see the hard, literal
side of a trial, ungilded by any faith or hope. We can fancy her
discouraged and mournful air, and hear the melancholy croak in
her voice as she talks to her daughters, when they profess their
devotion to her, and their purpose to share her fortunes and go with
her to the land of Israel.

"Turn again, my daughters; why will ye go with me? Are there yet any
more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my
daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have an husband. If I
should say that I have hope to-night that I should have an husband,
and bear sons, would ye tarry for them till they were grown? Would
ye stay from having husbands? Nay, my daughters, it grieveth me for
your sake that the hand of the Lord hath gone out against me."

This pre-eminently literal view of the situation seemed to strike
one of the daughters as not to be gainsaid; for we read: "And
they lifted up their voices and wept again, and Orpah kissed her
mother-in-law, but Ruth clave unto her."

All the world through, from that time to this, have been these two
classes of friends. The one weep, and kiss, and leave us to our
fate, and go to seek their own fortunes. There are plenty of that
sort every day. But the other are one with us for life or death.

The literal-minded, sorrowful old woman has no thought of inspiring
such devotion. Orpah, in her mind, has done the sensible and only
thing in leaving her, and she says to Ruth: "Behold, thy sister has
returned unto her people and unto her gods; return thou after thy

We see in this verse how devoid of religious faith is the mother. In
a matter-of-course tone she speaks of Orpah having gone back to her
gods, and recommends Ruth to do the like. And now the fair, sweet
Ruth breaks forth in an unconscious poetry of affection, which has
been consecrated as the language of true love ever since: "Entreat
me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for
whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge:
thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest
I will die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and
more also, if aught but death part thee and me."

Troth-plight of fondest lovers, marriage-vows straitest and most
devoted, can have no love-language beyond this; it is the very
crystallized and diamond essence of constancy and devotion. It
is thus that minds which have an unconscious power of enthusiasm
surprise and dominate their literal fellow-pilgrims. It is as if
some silent dun-colored bird had broken out into wondrous ecstasies
of silver song. Naomi looked on her daughter, and the narrative
says, "When she saw that she was steadfastly minded to go with her,
then she left speaking to her." But Ruth is ignorant of the beauty
of her own nature; for Love never knows herself or looks in a mirror
to ask if she be fair; and though her superior moral and emotive
strength prevail over the lower nature of the mother, it is with a
sweet, unconscious, yielding obedience that she follows her.

When they came back to their kindred, the scene is touchingly
described. In her youth the mother had been gay and radiant, as
her name, Naomi, "pleasant," signifies. "And it came to pass that
when they came in, all the village was moved about them, and they
said: Is this Naomi? And she said: "Call me not Naomi, call me Marah
[bitterness]; for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me. I
went out full, and the Lord hath brought me again empty. Why then
call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the
Almighty hath afflicted me?"

We see here a common phase of a low order of religion. Naomi does
not rebel at the Divine decree. She thinks that she is bitterly
dealt with, but that there is no use in complaining, because it is
the _Almighty_ that has done it. It does not even occur to her that
in going away from the land of true religion, and encouraging her
sons to form marriages in a heathen land, she had done anything to
make this affliction needful; and yet the whole story shows that but
for this stroke the whole family would have settled down contentedly
among the Moabites, and given up country and religion and God. There
are many nowadays to whom just such afflictions are as needful, and
to whom they seem as bitter and inexplicable.

The next scene shows us the barley-field of the rich proprietor,--"a
mighty man, a man of wealth," the narrative calls him. Young men
and maidens, a goodly company, are reaping, binding, and gathering.
In the shade are the parched corn and sour wine, and other
provisions set forth for the noontide rest and repast.

The gracious proprietor, a noble-minded, gentle old man, now comes
upon the scene. "And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem, and said to
the reapers, The Lord be with you; and they answered, The Lord bless
thee." The religious spirit of the master spread itself through all
his hands, and the blessing that he breathes upon them was returned
to him. The sacred simplicity of the scene is beyond praise.

He inquires of his men the history of this fair one who modestly
follows the reapers, and, finding who she is, says: "Hearest thou,
my daughter, go not to glean in any other field, but abide here with
my maidens. Let thine eyes be upon the field that they reap, and go
after them: have I not charged the young men not to touch thee? and
when thou art athirst, go to the vessels and drink of that that the
young men have drawn." Then she bowed herself and said: "Why have I
found grace in thine eyes, that thou shouldst take knowledge of me,
seeing I am a stranger?" And he said: "It hath been fully shown unto
me all that thou hast done to thy mother-in-law since the death of
thy husband; how thou hast left thy father and thy mother, and the
land of thy nativity, and art come to a people that thou knewest not
heretofore. The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given
thee of the God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust."

We have afterwards the picture of the young gleaner made at home at
the noontide repast, where the rich proprietor sat with his servants
in parental equality,--"And she sat beside the reapers, and he did
reach her parched corn, and she did eat and was sufficed."

There is a delicacy in the feeling inspired by the timid, modest
stranger, which is expressed in the orders given by Boaz to the
young men. "And it came to pass when she rose to glean, that Boaz
commanded his young men, saying: Let her glean even among the
sheaves, and reproach her not; and let fall also some handfuls of
purpose for her, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not."

Gleaning, by the institutes of Moses, was one of the allotted
privileges of the poor. It was a beautiful feature of that system
that consideration for the poor was interwoven with all the acts of
common life. The language of the laws of Moses reminded the rich
that they were of one family with the poor. "Thou shalt not harden
thy heart nor shut thy hand from thy _poor brother_. Thou shalt
surely give to him, and thy heart shall not be grieved when thou
givest, because for this the Lord thy God shall bless thee." "And
when ye reap the harvest of your land thou shalt not wholly reap
the corners of the field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings
of thy harvest; and thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither
shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave
them for the poor and the stranger. I am the Lord." This provision
for the unfortunate operated both ways. It taught consideration and
thoughtfulness to the rich, and industry and self-respect to the
poor. They were not humbled as paupers. They were not to be beggars,
but gleaners, and a fair field for self-respecting labor was opened
to them. In the spirit of these generous laws the rich proprietor
veils his patronage of the humble maid. Ruth was to be abundantly
helped, as it were, by a series of fortunate accidents.

We see in the character of Boaz the high-minded, chivalrous
gentleman, devout in his religion Godward, and considerately
thoughtful of his neighbor; especially mindful of the weak and
helpless and unprotected. It was the working out, in one happy
instance, of the ideal of manhood the system of Moses was designed
to create.

And now the little romance goes on to a happy termination. The
fair gleaner returns home artlessly triumphant with the avails of
her day's toil, and tells her mother of the kind patronage she
has received. At once, on hearing the name, the prudent mother
recognizes the near kinsman of the family, bound, by the law of
Moses and the custom of the land, to become the husband and
protector of her daughter. In the eye of Jewish law and Jewish
custom Ruth already belonged to Boaz, and had a right to claim the
position and protection of a wife. The system of Moses solved the
problem of woman by allotting to every woman a man as a protector.
A widow had her son to stand for her; but if a widow were left
without a son, then the nearest kinsman of the former husband
was bound to take her to wife. The manner in which Naomi directs
the simple-minded and obedient daughter to throw herself on the
protection of her rich kinsman is so far removed from all our modern
ideas of propriety that it cannot be judged by them. She is directed
to seek the threshing-floor at night, to lie down at his feet, and
draw over her his mantle; thus, in the symbolic language of the
times, asserting her humble right to the protection of a wife. Ruth
is shown to us as one of those artless, confiding natures that see
no evil in what is purely and rightly intended. It is enough for
her, a stranger, to understand that her mother, an honored Judæan
matron, would command nothing which was not considered decorous and
proper among her people. She obeys without a question. In the same
spirit of sacred simplicity in which the action was performed it was
received. There is a tender dignity and a chivalrous delicacy in the
manner in which the bold yet humble advance is accepted.

"And Boaz awoke, and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. And he said,
Who art thou? And she said, I am Ruth, thy handmaid. Spread thy
skirt over me, for thou art my near kinsman. And he said, Blessed
art thou of the Lord, my daughter, for thou hast shown more kindness
at the end than in the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not
the young men, poor or rich. And now, my daughter, fear not; I will
do for thee all that thou requirest, for all the city of my people
doth know that thou art a virtuous woman."

The very crucial test of gentlemanly delicacy and honor is
the manner in which it knows how to receive an ingenuous and
simple-hearted act of confidence. As in the fields Boaz did not
ostentatiously urge alms upon the timid maiden, but suffered her
to have the pleasure of gleaning for herself, so now he treats this
act by which she throws herself upon his protection as an honor
done to him, for which he is bound to be grateful. He hastens to
assure her that he is her debtor for the preference she shows him.
That courtesy and chivalric feeling for woman which was so strong a
feature in the character of Moses, and which is embodied in so many
of his laws and institutes, comes out in this fine Hebrew gentleman
as perfectly, but with more simplicity, than in the Sir Charles
Grandison of the eighteenth century. And so, at last, the lovely
stranger, Ruth the Moabitess, becomes the wife of the rich landed
proprietor, with the universal consent of all the people. "And
all the people that were in the gates and the elders said, We are
witnesses. The Lord make this woman that is come into thy house like
Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel."

From this marriage of the chivalrous, pious old man with the devoted
and loving Ruth the Moabitess, sprang an auspicious lineage. The
house of David, the holy maiden of Judæa and her son, whom all
nations call blessed, were the illustrious seed of this wedding.
In the scene at the birth of the first son of Ruth, we have a fine
picture of the manners of those days. "And the women said unto
Naomi, Blessed be the Lord which hath not left thee this day without
a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be
unto thee a restorer of thy life and a nourisher of thy old age:
for thy daughter-in-law, which loveth thee, and is better to thee
than seven sons, hath borne him. And Naomi took the child and
laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her
neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi, and
they called his name Obed; he is the father of Jesse, the father of

In all this we see how strong is the impression which the _loving_
nature of Ruth makes in the narrative. From the union of this
woman so tender and true, and this man so gracious and noble and
chivalric, comes the great heart-poet of the world. No other songs
have been so dear to mankind, so cherished in the heart of high and
low, rich and poor, in every nation and language, as these Psalms of

    "It is that music to whose tone
      The common pulse of man keeps time,
    In cot or castle's mirth or moan,
      In cold or fervid clime."

In the tender friendship of David for Jonathan, we see again the
loving constancy of Ruth in a manly form,--the love between soul
and soul, which was "wonderful, passing the love of women." In the
ideal which we form of Mary, the mother of Jesus, lowly, modest,
pious, constant, rich in the power of love and in a simple, trustful
faith, we see the transmission of family traits through generations.
Dante, in his "Paradise," places Ruth among the holy women who sit
at the feet of the glorified Madonna. The Providence that called a
Moabitish ancestress into that golden line whence should spring the
Messiah was a sort of morning star of intimation that He should be
of no limited nationality; that he was to be the Son of Man, the
Lord and brother of all mankind.


What was a witch, according to the law of Moses, and why was
witchcraft a capital offense? A witch was the dark shadow of a

A prophetess was a holy woman drawing near to the spiritual world
by means of faith and prayer, and thus inspired by God with a
knowledge beyond the ordinary power of mortals. Her prophecies and
her guidance were all from the only true source of knowledge; the
spirits that attended her were true and heavenly spirits, and she
became a medium by whom the will of God and the perplexed path of
duty were made plain to others. A witch, on the contrary, was one
who sought knowledge of the future, not from the one supreme God,
but through all those magical charms, incantations, and ceremonies
by which the spirits of the dead were sought for interference in the
affairs of men. The guilt and the folly of seeking these consisted
in the fact that there was another and a legitimate supply for that
craving of the human heart.

Man is consciously weak, helpless, burdened with desires and fears
which he knows not how to supply or allay. Moses distinctly stated
to the Jews that their GOD was "_nigh_ unto them for ALL they
should call upon him for." The examples of holy men and women in
sacred history show that, even for private and personal griefs,
and intimate sorrows and perplexities, there was immediate access
to the gracious Jehovah, there were direct answers to prayer. Had
Hannah, in her childless longings and misery, sought a woman who had
a familiar spirit, she would have broken the law of the land, and
committed an act of rebellion against her King and Father. But she
went directly to God, and became a joyful mother.

Besides the personal access of the individual by prayer, there
were always holy mediums raised up from time to time in the nation,
who were lawful and appointed sources of counsel and aid. There
were always the prophet and prophetess, through whom there was
even nearer access to the guardian God, and we repeatedly read of
application made to these sources in case of sickness or sorrow or
perplexity. The high-priest, by virtue of his office, was held to
possess this power. Exactly what the Urim and Thummim were, the
learned do not seem to agree; it is sufficient to know that they
were in some way the instruments of a lawful mode appointed by God,
through which questions asked of the high-priest might be answered,
and guidance given in perplexing cases.

And now, on the other hand, as to the _witch_, and how her unlawful
processes were carried on, we get more help from one vivid, graphic
picture than by all the researches of archæologists. We therefore
give entire the singular and poetic story in the First Book of

"Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had lamented him, and buried
him in Ramah, even in his own city. And Saul had put away those
that had familiar spirits, and the wizards, out of the land. And
the Philistines gathered themselves together, and came and pitched
in Shunem: and Saul gathered all Israel together, and they pitched
in Gilboa. And when Saul saw the host of the Philistines, he was
afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul inquired of
the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim,
nor by prophets. Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman
that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of
her. And his servants said to him, Behold, there is a woman that
hath a familiar spirit at Endor. And Saul disguised himself, and
put on other raiment, and he went, and two men with him, and they
came to the woman by night: and he said, I pray thee, divine unto me
by the familiar spirit, and bring me him up whom I shall name unto
thee. And the woman said unto him, Behold, thou knowest what Saul
hath done, how he hath cut off those that have familiar spirits,
and the wizards, out of the land: wherefore then layest thou a
snare for my life, to cause me to die? And Saul sware to her by
the Lord, saying, As the Lord liveth, there shall no punishment
happen to thee for this thing. Then said the woman, Whom shall I
bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the
woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake
to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul. And
the king said unto her, Be not afraid; for what sawest thou? And
the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth.
And he said unto her, What form is he of? And she said, An old man
cometh up; and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that
it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and
bowed himself. And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou disquieted
me, to bring me up? And Saul answered, I am sore distressed; for
the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me,
and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams:
therefore I have called thee, that thou mayest make known unto me
what I shall do. Then said Samuel, Wherefore then dost thou ask
of me, seeing the Lord is departed from thee, and is become thine
enemy? And the Lord hath done to him, as he spake by me: for the
Lord hath rent the kingdom out of thine hand, and given it to thy
neighbor, even to David: Because thou obeyedst not the voice of the
Lord, nor executedst his fierce wrath upon Amalek, therefore hath
the Lord done this thing unto thee this day. Moreover the Lord will
also deliver Israel with thee into the hand of the Philistines: and
to-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me: the Lord also shall
deliver the host of Israel into the hand of the Philistines. Then
Saul fell straightway all along on the earth, and was sore afraid,
because of the words of Samuel: and there was no strength in him;
for he had eaten no bread all the day, nor all the night. And the
woman came unto Saul, and saw that he was sore troubled, and said
unto him, Behold, thine handmaid hath obeyed thy voice, and I have
put my life in my hand, and have hearkened unto thy words which
thou spakest unto me: now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also
unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread
before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou
goest on thy way. But he refused, and said, I will not eat. But his
servants, together with the woman, compelled him, and he hearkened
unto their voice. So he arose from the earth, and sat upon the bed.
And the woman had a fat calf in the house, and she hasted, and
killed it, and took flour, and kneaded it, and did bake unleavened
bread thereof. And she brought it before Saul, and before his
servants; and they did eat. Then they rose up, and went away that

We do not need to inquire what a witch was, or why she was
forbidden, further than this story shows. She is placed here as
exactly the contrary alternative to God, in the wants and sorrows
of life. The whole tenor of instruction to the Jews was, that there
was no Divine anger that might not be appeased and turned away by
deep, heartfelt repentance and amendment. In the GREAT NAME revealed
to Moses, the Jehovah declares himself "merciful and gracious, slow
to anger, of great kindness, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and
sin,"--there is but a single clause added on the side of admonitory
terror,--"who will by no means clear the guilty." A favorite mode
in which the guardian God is represented as speaking is that he
"repenteth of the evil" he thought to do, in response to penitent

Saul had broken with his God on the score of an intense self-will,
and he did not repent. The prophet Samuel had announced wrath, and
threatened final rejection, but no humiliation and no penitence
followed. In this mood of mind, when his fear came as desolation,
all the avenues of knowledge or aid which belonged to God's children
were closed upon him, and he voluntarily put himself in the hands of
those powers which were his declared enemies.

The scene as given is so exactly like what is occurring in our
day, like incidents that so many among us have the best reason for
knowing to be objectively facts of daily occurrence, that there
is no reason to encumber it with notes and comments as to the
probability of the account. The woman was a medium who had the power
of calling up the spirits of the dead at the desire of those who
came to her. She is not represented at all as a witch after the
Shakespearean style. There is no "eye of newt and toe of frog,"
no caldron or grimaces to appall. From all that appears, she was
a soft-hearted, kindly, cowardly creature, turning a penny as she
could, in a way forbidden by the laws of the land; quite ready to
make up by artifice for any lack of reality; who cast her line into
the infinite shadows, and was somewhat appalled by what it brought

There is a tone of reproof in the voice of the departed friend: "Why
hast thou _disquieted_ me, to bring me up?" And when Saul says, "God
hath forsaken us, and will not answer," the reproving shade replies,
"Wherefore come to _me_, seeing God hath become thine enemy?" In all
this is the voice of the true and loyal prophet, who from a child
had sought God, and God alone, in every emergency, and ever found
him true and faithful.

This story has its parallel in our days. In our times there is a God
and Father always nigh to those who diligently seek him. There is
communion with spirits through Jesus, the great High-Priest. There
are promises of guidance in difficulties and support under trials to
all who come to God by Him.

In our days, too, there are those who propose, for the relief of
human perplexities and the balm for human sorrows, a recourse to
those who have familiar spirits, and profess to call back to us
those who are at rest with God.

Now, while there is no objection to a strict philosophical
investigation and analysis and record of these phenomena considered
as psychological facts, while, in fact, such investigation is loudly
called for as the best remedy for superstition, there is great
danger to the mind and moral sense in _seeking them as guides in our
perplexities or comforters in our sorrows_. And the danger is just
this, that they take the place of that communion with God and that
filial intercourse with him which is alone the true source of light
and comfort. Most especially, to those whose souls are weakened by
the anguish of some great bereavement, is the seeking of those that
have familiar spirits to be dreaded. Who could bear to expose to
the eye of a paid medium the sanctuary of our most sacred love and
sorrow? and how fearful is the thought that some wandering spirit,
in the voice and with the tone and manner of those dearest to us,
may lead us astray to trust in those who are not God!

The most dangerous feature we know of in these professed
spirit-messages is their constant tendency to place themselves
before our minds as our refuge and confidence rather than God. "Seek
us, trust us, believe in us, rely on us,"--such is always the voice
that comes from them.

In Isaiah viii. 19, the prophet describes a time of great affliction
and sorrow coming upon the Jews, when they would be driven to seek
supernatural aid. He says: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek
unto them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards that peep and
mutter; should not a nation seek unto their God? should the living
seek unto the dead? To the law, and to the testimony; if they speak
not according to this word, there is no light in them." The prophet
goes on to say that those who thus turn from God to these sources
of comfort "shall be hardly bestead and hungry, and shall fret

All our observation of those who have sought to these sources of
comfort has been that they fall into just this restless hunger of
mind, an appetite forever growing and never satisfied; and as their
steps go farther and farther from the true source of all comfort,
the hunger and thirst increase. How much more beautiful, safe,
and sure that good old way of trust in God! The writer has had a
somewhat large observation of the very best and most remarkable
phenomena of that which is claimed to be spirit communion; she
does not doubt the reality of many very remarkable appearances
and occurrences; she has only respectful and tender sympathy for
those whose heart-sorrows they have consoled. But when this way
of guidance and consolation is put in the place of that direct
filial access to God through Jesus which the Bible reveals, it
must be looked upon as the most illusive and insidious of dangers.
The phenomena, whatever they are, belong to forces too little
understood, to laws too much unknown, that we should trust ourselves
to them in the most delicate, critical, and sacred wants of our life.

Better than all is the way spoken of by Jesus when he, the
Comforter, Guide, Teacher, Friend, will manifest himself to the
faithful soul as he does not to the world: "If a man love me, he
will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come
and make our abode with him."

[Illustration: ESTHER THE QUEEN]


The story of Esther belongs to that dark period in Jewish history
when the national institutions were to all human view destroyed. The
Jews were scattered up and down through the provinces captives and
slaves, with no rights but what their conquerors might choose to
give them. Without a temple, without an altar, without a priesthood,
they could only cling to their religion as a memory of the past, and
with some dim hopes for the future. In this depressed state, there
was a conspiracy, armed by the regal power, to exterminate the whole
race, and this terrible danger was averted by the beauty and grace,
the courage and prudence, of one woman. The portrait of this heroine
comes to us in a flush of Oriental splendor. Her story reads like a
romance, yet her memory, in our very prosaic days, is embalmed as a
reality, by a yearly festival devoted to it. Every year the festival
of Purim in every land and country whither the Jews are scattered,
reminds the world that the romance has been a reality, and the woman
whose beauty and fascination were the moving power in it was no
creation of fancy.

The style of the book of Esther is peculiar. It has been held by
learned Jews to be a compilation made by Mordecai from the Persian
annals. The name of Jehovah nowhere occurs in it, although frequent
mention is made of fasting and prayer. The king Ahasuerus is
supposed by the best informed to be the Xerxes of Herodotus, and
the time of the story previous to the celebrated expedition of that
monarch against Greece. The hundred and twenty-seven provinces over
which he reigned are picturesquely set forth by Herodotus in his
celebrated description of the marshaling of this great army. The
vanity, ostentation, childish passionateness, and disregard of human
life ascribed to the king in this story are strikingly like other
incidents related by Herodotus.

When a father came to him imploring that he would spare one of his
sons from going to the war, Xerxes immediately commanded the young
man to be slain and divided, and the wretched father was obliged to
march between the mangled remains. This was to illustrate forcibly
that no human being had any rights but the king, and that it was
presumptuous even to wish to retain anything from his service.

The armies of Xerxes were not _led_ to battle by leaders in front,
but driven from behind with whips like cattle. When the king's
bridge of boats across the Hellespont was destroyed by a storm, he
fell into a fury, and ordered the sea to be chastised with stripes,
and fetters to be thrown into it, with the admonition, "O thou
salt and bitter water, it is thus that thy master chastises thy
insolence!" We have the picture, in Herodotus, of the king seated
at ease on his royal throne, on an eminence, beholding the various
ranks of his army as they were driven like so many bullocks into
battle. When the battle went against him, he would leap from his
throne in furies of impotent rage.

It is at the court of this monarch, proud, vain, passionate, and
ostentatious, that the story opens, with a sort of dazzle of Eastern
splendor. "Now it came to pass, in the days of Ahasuerus, which
reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and twenty
and seven provinces, that in those days, when King Ahasuerus sat on
the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, in the
third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and
his servants; the powers of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes
of the provinces, being before him: when he showed them the riches
of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty."

On the last seven days of the feast the royal palace is thrown open
to the populace of Shushan. The writer goes on to amplify and give
particulars: In the courts of the king's garden were couches of
gold and silver, on a pavement of colored marbles, with hangings
of white, green, and blue, fastened by cords of purple and fine
linen to silver rings in marble pillars. There was wine poured
forth in costly goblets of very quaint and rare device. Vashti,
the queen, at the same time made a feast to all the women in the
royal house which belonged to the king. In the year 1819 Sir Robert
Ker Porter visited and explored the ruins of this city of Shushan.
His travels were printed for private circulation, and are rare and
costly. They contain elegant drawings and restorations of the palace
at Persepolis which would well illustrate this story, and give an
idea of the architectural splendor of the scenery of the drama here

Of Shushan itself,--otherwise Susa,--he gives only one or two
drawings of fragmentary ruins. The "satyrs have long danced and the
bitterns cried" in these halls then so gay and glorious, though
little did the king then dream of that.

At the close of the long revel, when the king was inflated to the
very ultimatum of ostentatious vanity, he resolves, as a last
glorification of self, to exhibit the unveiled beauty of his Queen
Vashti to all the princes and lords of his empire.

Now, if we consider the abject condition of all _men_ in that day
before the king, we shall stand amazed that there was a woman found
at the head of the Persian empire that dared to disobey the command
even of a drunken monarch. It is true that the thing required was,
according to Oriental customs, an indecency as great as if a modern
husband should propose to his wife to exhibit her naked person.
Vashti was reduced to the place where a woman deliberately chooses
death before dishonor. The _naïve_ account of the counsel of the
king and princes about this first stand for woman's rights--their
fear that the example might infect other wives with a like spirit,
and weaken the authority of husbands--is certainly a most delightful
specimen of ancient simplicity. It shows us that the male sex, with
all their force of physical mastery, hold everywhere, even in the
undeveloped states of civilization, an almost even-handed conflict
with those subtler and more ethereal forces which are ever at the
disposal of women. It appears that the chief councilors and mighty
men of Persia could scarcely hold their own with their wives, and
felt as if the least toleration would set them all out into open
rebellion. So Vashti is deposed, _nem. con._, by the concurrent
voice of all the princes of the Medes and Persians.

Then comes the account of the steps taken to secure another queen.
All the beautiful virgins through all the hundred and twenty-seven
provinces are caught, caged, and sent traveling towards Shushan,
and delivered over to the keeping of the chief eunuch, like so many
birds and butterflies, waiting their turn to be sent in to the
king. Among them all a Jewish maiden, of an enslaved, oppressed
race, is the favored one. Before all the beauties of the provinces
Esther is preferred, and the crown royal is set upon her head. What
charmed about Esther was, perhaps, the reflection of a soul from her
beautiful face. Every one of the best class of Jewish women felt
secretly exalted by her conception of the dignity of her nation as
chosen by the one true God, and destined to bring into the world
the great prince and Messiah who should reign over the earth.
These religious ideas inspired in them a lofty and heroic cast of
mind that even captivity could not subdue. At all events there was
something about Esther that gave her a power to charm and fix the
passions of this voluptuous and ostentatious monarch. Esther is the
adopted daughter of her kinsman Mordecai, and the narrative says
that "Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was
brought up with him." At his command she forbears to declare her
nationality and lineage, and Mordecai refrains from any connection
with her that would compromise her as related to an obscure captive,
though the story says he walked every day before the court of the
woman's house to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.

In these walks around the palace he overhears a conspiracy of two
chamberlains to murder the king, and acquaints Esther of the danger.
The conspirators are executed, and the record passes into the
Persian annals with the name of Mordecai the Jew, but no particular
honor or reward is accorded to him at that time. Meanwhile, a
foreign adventurer named Haman rises suddenly to influence and
power, and becomes prime minister to the king. This story is a sort
of door, opening into the interior of a despotic court, showing the
strange and sudden reverses of fortune which attended that phase of
human existence. Haman, inflated with self-consequence, as upstart
adventurers generally are, is enraged at Mordecai for neglecting to
prostrate himself before him as the other hangers-on of the court
do. Safe in his near relationship to the queen, Mordecai appears to
have felt himself free to indulge in the expensive and dangerous
luxury of quiet contempt for the all-powerful favorite of the king.

It is most astounding next to read how Haman, having resolved to
take vengeance on Mordecai by exterminating his whole nation, thus
glibly and easily wins over the king to his scheme. "There is a
nation," he says, "scattered abroad throughout all the provinces
of the king's kingdom, and their laws are diverse from all people,
neither keep they the king's laws, therefore it is not for the
king's profit to suffer them." "If it please the king let it be
written that they may be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand
talents of silver to the hands of them that have the charge of the
business, to bring it into the king's treasury."

It is fashionable in our times to speak of the contempt and
disregard shown to women in this period of the world among Oriental
races, but this one incident shows that women were held no cheaper
than men. _Human beings_ were cheap. The massacre of hundreds
of thousands was negotiated in an easy, off-hand way, just as a
gardener ordains exterminating sulphur for the green bugs on his
plants. The king answered to Haman, "The silver is given thee, and
the people also, to do as seemeth to thee good."

Then, says the story, "the king's scribes were called on the
thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according
to all that Haman had commanded, and the letters were sent by post
into all the provinces, to destroy and to kill and cause to perish
all Jews, both old and young, little children and women, in one day,
of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, to take the spoil of
them for a prey. The posts went out, being hastened by the king's
commandment, _and the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the
city of Shushan was perplexed_." And when Mordecai heard this he
rent his clothes and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went into the
midst of the city, and came even before the king's gate, for none
might enter into the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. The Oriental
monarch was supposed to dwell in eternal bliss and joyfulness: no
sight or sound of human suffering or weakness or pain must disturb
the tranquility of his court; he must not even suspect the existence
of such a thing as sorrow.

Far in the luxurious repose of the women's apartments, sunk upon
embroidered cushions, listening to the warbling of birds and the
plash of fountains, Esther the queen knew nothing of the decree
that had gone forth against her people. The report was brought her
by her chamberlain that her kinsman was in sackcloth, and she sent
to take it away and clothe him with costly garments, but he refused
the attention and persisted in his mourning. Then the queen sent her
chief chamberlain to inquire what was the cause of his distress,
and Mordecai sent a copy of the decree, with a full account of how
and by whom it had been obtained, and charging her to go and make
supplication to the king for her people. Esther returned answer:
"All the king's servants do know that whosoever, man or woman, shall
come in to the king in the inner court, who is not called, there is
one law to put them to death, except those to whom the king shall
hold out the golden scepter that he may live, but I have not been
called to appear before the king for thirty days."

We have here the first thoughts of a woman naturally humble and
timid, knowing herself one of the outlawed race, and fearing,
from the long silence of the king, that his heart may have been
set against her by the enemies of her people. Mordecai sent in
reply to this a sterner message; "Think not with thyself that thou
shalt escape in the king's house more than all the Jews. For if
thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there
enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another quarter,
but thou and thy father's house shall be cut off; and who knoweth
whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" And
Esther sends this reply: "Go, gather together all the Jews that are
in Shushan, and fast ye for me; neither eat nor drink for three
days, night or day; and I and my maidens will fast likewise. And so
I will go in unto the king, which is not according to law; and if I
perish, I perish."

There are certain apochryphal additions to the book of Esther, which
are supposed to be the efforts of some romancer in enlarging upon
a historic theme. In it is given at length a prayer of Mordecai in
this distress, and a detailed account of the visit of Esther to the
king. The writer says, that, though she carried a smiling face,
"her heart was in anguish for fear," and she fell fainting upon the
shoulder of her maid. Our own account is briefer, and relates simply
how the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, and she
obtained favor in his eyes, and he held out the golden scepter, and
said to her, "What wilt thou, Queen Esther, what is thy request? and
it shall be given thee, even to half of the kingdom." Too prudent to
enter at once into a discussion of the grand subject, Esther seeks
an occasion to study the king and Haman together more nearly, and
her request is only that the king and Haman would come that day to a
private banquet in the queen's apartments. It was done, and the king
and Haman both came.

At the banquet her fascinations again draw from the king the
permission to make known any request of her heart, and it shall
be given, even to half of his kingdom. Still delaying the final
issue, Esther asks that both the king and his minister may come to a
second banquet on the morrow. Haman appears to have been excessively
flattered at this attention from the queen, of whose nationality
he was profoundly ignorant; but as he passed by and saw Mordecai
in his old seat in the king's gate, "that he stood not up neither
moved for him," he was full of indignation. He goes home to his
domestic circle, and amplifies the account of his court successes
and glories, and that even the queen has distinguished him with an
invitation which was shared by no one but the king. Yet, he says, in
the end, all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the
Jew sitting in the king's gate. His wife is fruitful in resources.
"Erect a gibbet," she says, "and to-morrow speak to the king, and
have Mordecai hanged, and go thou merrily to the banquet." And the
thing pleased Haman, and he caused the gallows to be made.

On that night the king could not sleep, and calls an attendant,
by way of opiate, to read the prosy and verbose records of his
kingdom,--probably having often found this a sovereign expedient for
inducing drowsiness. Then, by accident, his ear catches the account
of the conspiracy which had been averted by Mordecai. "What honor
hath been shown this man?" he inquires; and his servants answered,
There is nothing done for him. The king's mind runs upon the
subject, and early in the morning, perceiving Haman standing as an
applicant in the outer court, he calls to have him admitted. Haman
came, with his mind full of the gallows and Mordecai. The king's
mind was full, also, of Mordecai, and he had the advantage of the
right of speaking first. In the enigmatic style sometimes employed
by Oriental monarchs, he inquires, "What shall be done with the man
whom the king delighteth to honor?" Haman, thinking this the preface
to some new honor to himself, proposes a scheme. The man whom the
king delights to honor shall be clothed in the king's royal robes,
wear the king's crown, be mounted on the king's horse, and thus
be led through the streets by one of the king's chief councilors,
proclaiming, "This is the man whom the king delighteth to honor."
"Then said the king: Make haste, and do even so as thou hast said
unto Mordecai the Jew that sitteth in the king's gate. Let nothing
fail of all that thou hast spoken." And Haman, without daring to
remonstrate, goes forth and fulfills the king's command, with what
grace and willingness may be imagined.

It is evident from the narrative that the king had not even taken
the trouble to inquire the name of the people he had given up to
extermination any more than he had troubled himself to reward the
man who had saved his life. In both cases he goes on blindly, and
is indebted to mere chance for his discoveries. We see in all this
the same passionate, childish nature that is recorded of Xerxes by
Herodotus when he scourged the sea for destroying his bridge of
boats. When Haman comes back to his house after his humiliating
public exposure, his wife comforts him after a fashion that has not
passed out of use with her. "If that Mordecai," she says, "is of the
seed of the Jews before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not
prevail against him, but shall surely fall before him."

And now Haman and the king and Esther are once more in a secluded
apartment, banqueting together. Again the king says to her, "What
is thy request, Esther?" The hour of full discovery is now come.
Esther answers: "If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if
it please the king, let _my life_ be given me at my petition, and
my people at my request. For we are sold, I and my people, to be
slain and to perish. If we had only been sold to slavery, I had held
my tongue." Then the king breaks forth, "Who is he, and where is
he that durst presume in his heart to do so?" And Esther answered,
"The adversary and enemy _is this wicked Haman_!" Then Haman was
afraid before the king and queen, and he had the best reason to be
so. The king, like an angry lion, rose up in a fury and rushed out
into the gardens. Probably at this moment he perceived the net into
which he had been drawn by his favorite. He has sent orders for
the destruction of this people, to whom his wife belongs, and for
whom she intercedes. Of course he never thinks of blaming himself.
The use of prime ministers was as well understood in those days
as now, and Haman must take the consequences as soon as the king
can get voice to speak it. Haman, white with abject terror, falls
fainting at the feet of Esther upon the couch where she rests, and
as the king comes raging back from the gardens he sees him there.
"What! will he force our queen also in our very presence?" he says.
And as the word went out of the king's mouth, they covered Haman's
face. All is over with him, and an alert attendant says: "Behold
the gallows, fifty cubits high, that he made to hang Mordecai, the
saviour of the king's life." Then said the king, "Hang him thereon."

Thus dramatically comes the story to a crisis. Mordecai becomes
prime minister. The message of the king goes everywhere, empowering
the Jews to stand for their life, and all the governors of provinces
to protect them. And so it ends in leaving the nation powerful in
all lands, under the protection of a queen and prime minister of
their own nation.

The book of Esther was forthwith written and sent to the Jews in
all countries of the earth, as a means of establishing a yearly
commemorative festival called Purim, from the word "Pur," or "The
lot." The festival was appointed, we are told, by the joint
authority of Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen. And to this
day we Gentiles in New York or Boston, at the time of Purim, may
go into the synagogue and hear this book of Esther chanted in the
Hebrew, and hear the hearty curses which are heaped, with thumps of
hammers and of fists, upon the heads of Haman and his sons whenever
their names occur in the story,--a strange fragment of ancient
tradition floated down to our modern times. The palace of Shushan,
with its hangings of green and blue and purple, its silver couches,
its stir and hum of busy life, is now a moldering ruin; but the
fair woman that once trod its halls is remembered and honored in a
nation's heart. It is a curious fact that the romantic history of
Esther has twice had its parallel since the Christian era, as the
following incident, from Schudt's "Memorabilia of the Jews,"[4]
witnesses. In this rare and curious work--4th book, 13th chapter--he
says: "Casimir the Great, of Poland, in 1431, fell in love with a
beautiful Jewess named Esther, whom he married and raised to the
throne of Poland. He had by her two sons and several daughters.
His love for her was so great that he allowed the daughters to be
brought up in their mother's religion." Also it is related that
Alphonso VIII., king of Spain, took to himself a beautiful Jewess as
a wife. On account of her he gave such privileges to the Jews that
she became an object of jealousy to the nobles, and was assassinated.

  [4] Jüdische Merkwürdigkeiten. Frankfort and Leipsic, 1714.

The book of Esther fills an important place in the sacred canon, as
showing the Divine care and protection extended over the sacred race
in the period of their deepest depression. The beauty and grace of a
woman were the means of preserving the seed from which the great Son
of Man and desire of all nations, should come. Esther held in her
fair hand the golden chain at the end of which we see the Mother of
Jesus. The "Prayer of Esther" is a composition ascribed to her, and
still in honored use among the solemn services of the synagogue.



No female type of character has given more brilliant inspiration
to the artist or been made more glowingly alive on canvas than
Judith. Her story, however, is set down by competent scholars
as a work of fiction. The incidents recorded in it have so many
anachronisms as to time and place, the historical characters
introduced are in combinations and relations so interfering with
authentic history, that such authorities as Professor Winer,[5] of
Leipsic, and others, do not hesitate to assign it to the realm of
romance. This Apocryphal book is, in fact, one of the few sparse
blossoms of æsthetic literature among the Jewish nation. It is a
story ages before the time of the tales of the _Decameron_, but as
purely a romance. Considered in this light, it is nobly done and
of remarkable beauty. The character of Judith is a striking and
picturesque creation, of which any modern artist might be proud. It
illustrates quite as powerfully as a true story the lofty and heroic
type of womanhood which was the result of the Mosaic institutions,
and the reverence in which such women were held by the highest
authorities of the nation.

  [5] Winer's Bible Dictionary, art. _Judith_.

The author begins with the account of a destructive and terrible war
which is being waged on the Jewish nation for refusing to serve in
the armies of one Nabuchodonosor, king of Assyria, in an attack on
the king of the Medes and Persians. All the names of this so-called
war, and all the events as narrated, are out of joint with received
history, and clearly as much creations of the writer's fancy as the
Arabian Nights. It is stated that the Jews had just returned from
the Babylonian captivity, and brought back their sacred vessels,
and restored their temple worship after the long defilement of
heathen servitude. But it is a matter of undisputed history that
Nabuchodonosor was the king who carried the nation into captivity,
and no other monarch of the name is known to history who performed
deeds at all like those here narrated.

The story goes on to state how, to punish the Jews for not becoming
his soldiers in the war, this king sent his chief commander,
Holofernes, to carry destruction over their country. The mighty army
of this general, and its ravages over the surrounding country, are
set forth with an Oriental luxury of amplification. They come at
last and straitly besiege the city of Bethulia. Whether this is a
fictitious name for a real city, or whether it is a supposititious
city, the creation of the author's imagination, critics are not
fully decided; the story is just as pretty on one hypothesis as the
other. The water being cut off, the people, suffering and dying of
thirst, beset the chief-priests and elders to surrender the city to
save their lives. Ozias, the chief ruler, temporizes, recommends
five days of prayer; if before that time the God of Israel does not
interpose, he promises to surrender.

And now the romance puts its heroine on the stage. After tracing her
family and descent, it introduces her in these quaint words: "Now
Judith was a widow in her house three years and four months. And she
made her tent on the top of the house, put on sackcloth, and wore
her widow's apparel; and she fasted all the days of her widowhood,
save the eves of the Sabbaths, the Sabbaths, and the new moons and
solemn feast-days of Israel. She was also of goodly countenance,
and beautiful to behold, and her husband, Manasses, had left her
gold and silver, and man-servants and maid-servants, and cattle, and
lands; and she remained upon them. And there was none gave her an
ill word, for she feared God greatly."

It is a striking exemplification of the elevated position which
women held in the Jewish nation that a romance writer should
introduce the incident that follows. Judith, hearing of the promise
of the chief-ruler to surrender the city, sends her maid to call the
governor and the chief men of the city, and they came unto her. And
she said: "Hear now, O ye governors of the inhabitants of Bethulia,
for the words that you have spoken are not right touching this oath,
that you have promised to deliver the city to our enemies, unless
within these days the Lord turn and help you. And now, who are ye
that have tempted God this day, to stand in the stead of God to the
children of men?"

She goes on to tell them that they have no right to say that unless
God interfere for them before a certain time they will give up a
sacred charge which has been entrusted to them to maintain; but it
is rather their duty to stand at their posts and defend their city,
without making conditions with him as to when or how he should help
them. She says to them: "And now, try the Lord Almighty, and ye
shall never know anything. For ye cannot find the depth of the heart
of a man, neither can ye perceive what he thinketh; how, then, can
ye search out God, that hath made all things, and comprehend his
purposes? Nay, my brethren, provoke not the Lord our God to anger;
for if he will not help within five days, he hath power to help us
when he will, even every day. Do not bind the counsel of the Lord,
for God is not a man that he may be threatened. Therefore, let us
wait for salvation from him, and call upon him, and he will hear, if
it please him."

She then shows them the disgrace and dishonor which will come
upon them if they betray their trust, and they allow the sacred
inheritance to be defiled and destroyed, and ends with a heroic
exhortation: "Now, therefore, O brethren, let us show an example to
our brethren, because their hearts depend on us, and the sanctuary
and the house and the altar rest on us."

The governor and elders receive this message with respectful
deference, apologize for yielding to the urgency of the people, who
were mad with the sufferings of thirst, and compelled them to make
this promise, and adds: "Therefore, pray thou for us, for thou art a
goodly woman, and the Lord will send us rain, and fill our cisterns
that we thirst no more." At this moment Judith receives a sudden
flash of heroic inspiration, and announces to them, that, if they
will send her forth without the city that night, the Lord will visit
Israel by her hand. She adds that they must not inquire further
of her purpose, until the design she has in view be finished. The
magistrates, confiding implicitly in her, agree to forward her plan

The story now introduces us to the private oratory, where Judith
pours out her heart before God. So says the narrative: "Then Judith
fell on her face, and put ashes on her head, and uncovered the
sackcloth wherewith she was clothed, and about the time that the
incense of that evening was offered in Jerusalem in the house of the
Lord, Judith cried with a loud voice to the Lord."

The prayer of Judith is eloquent in its fervent simplicity, and
breathes that intense confidence in God as the refuge of the
helpless, which is characteristic of Jewish literature. "Behold,"
she says, "the Assyrians are multiplied in their power, and are
exalted with horse and man; they glory in the strength of their
footmen; they trust in shield and spear and bow, and know not that
thou art the Lord that breakest battles. The Lord is thy name.
Throw down their strength in thy power, and bring down their force
in thy wrath, for they have purposed to defile thy sanctuary, and
to pollute the tabernacle where thy glorious name resteth, and to
cast down with sword the home of thy altar. Behold their pride.
Send thy wrath upon their heads, and give unto me, which am a
widow, the power that I have conceived. For thy power standeth not
in multitude, nor thy might in strong men; for thou art the God of
the afflicted, thou art an helper of the oppressed, an upholder of
the weak, a protector of the forlorn, a saviour of them that are
without hope. I pray thee, I pray thee, O God of my father, King of
every creature! hear my prayer, and make my speech and deceit to
be their wound and stripe, who have purposed cruel things against
thy covenant, and thy hallowed house, and against the house of the
possession of thy children."

When she had thus prayed, the story goes on to say she called her
maid, and, laying aside the garments of her widowhood, dressed
herself in the utmost splendor, adorning herself with jewels, and
practicing every art of the toilet to set off her beauty. Thus
attired, she with her maid went forth from the city towards the
Assyrian army, meaning to be taken prisoner. As she designed, she
was met by the outguards of the army, and carried at once to the
tent of their general, professing that she had come to show him a
way whereby he could go in and win all the hill country without loss
of a man. The sensation produced by her entrance into the camp is
well given: "Then there was a concourse through all the camp, for
her coming was noised among the tents, and they came about her as
she stood waiting without the tent of Holofernes; and they wondered
at her beauty, and admired the children of Israel because of her,
and every one said to his neighbors, Who would despise this people
that have among them such women?"

The story next gives the scene where Holofernes, dazzled by her
beauty and enchanted by her manners, becomes entirely subject to
her will, receives and entertains her as a sovereign princess.
She easily persuades him to believe the story she tells him. This
people, she says, are under the protection of their God so long as
they do not violate the rules of their religion, but, under the
pressure of famine, they are about to eat of forbidden articles
and to consume the sacred offerings due to the temple. Then their
God will turn against them and deliver them into his hands. She
will remain with him, and go forth from time to time; and when the
sacrilege is accomplished, she will let him know that the hour to
fall upon them is come.

So Judith is installed in state and all honor near the court of the
commander, and enjoys to the full the right to exercise the rites
of her national religion,--nay, the infatuated Holofernes goes so
far as to promise her that, in the event of her succeeding in her
promises, he will himself adopt the God of Israel for his God. After
a day or two spent in this way, in which she goes forth every night
for prayer and ablutions at the fountain, there comes the attempt to
draw her into the harem of the general. Holofernes, in conference
with Bagoas, the chief of his eunuchs, seems to think that the
beautiful Judæan woman would laugh him to scorn if he suffered such
an opportunity to pass unimproved. Accordingly a private banquet is
arranged, and the chief of the eunuchs carries the invitation in
true Oriental style, as follows: "Let not this fair damsel fear to
come unto my lord, and to be honored in his presence, and to drink
wine and be merry, and to be made this day as one of the Assyrians
that serve in the house of Nabuchodonosor." Judith graciously
accepts the invitation, decks herself with all her jewelry, and
comes to the banquet and ravishes the heart of the commandant with
her smiles. Excited and flattered, he drinks, it is said, more wine
than ever he drunk before; so that, at the close of the feast, when
the servants departed and Judith was left alone in the tent with
him, he was lying dead drunk with wine on the cushions of his divan.

The rest is told in the story: "Then all went out and there was
none left in the bedchamber, neither little nor great. Then Judith,
standing by the bed, said in her heart, O Lord God of all power,
look, at this present, on the work of my hands for the exaltation
of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help thy inheritance and to
execute my enterprise to the destruction of the enemies that are
risen up against us. Then came she to the pillow of the couch, and
took down the fauchion from thence, and approached his bed, and took
hold of the hair of his head, and said, Strengthen me, O Lord God
of Israel, this day, and she smote twice upon his neck with all her
might, and she took away his head from him and went forth."

She returns to the city in the dim gray of the morning, bearing her
trophy and the canopy and hangings of the bed whereon the enemy lay:
"Then called Judith afar off to the watchmen, Open now the gates,
for God, even our God, is with us to show his power yet in Israel
and his strength against the enemy." A hasty midnight summons brings
together the elders of the city. A fire is kindled, and they gather
round her, as, radiant with triumphant excitement, she breaks forth
in triumph: "Praise, praise, praise God, praise God, I say, for he
has not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but hath
destroyed the enemy by my hand this night." And she took the head
out of the bag and showed it to them, and said: "Behold the head
of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold
the canopy where he did lie in his drunkenness, and the Lord hath
smitten him by the hand of a woman. As the Lord liveth, who hath
kept me in my way that I went, my countenance hath deceived him to
his destruction, yet he hath not committed sin with me to defile and
shame me."

Then Ozias said, "O daughter, blessed art thou among all the women
of the earth, and blessed be the Lord God which created the heavens
and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the
head of our chief enemy. For this thy confidence shall not depart
from the hearts of men which remember the power of God forever. And
God turn these things for a perpetual praise, because thou hast not
spared thy life for the affliction of our nation, but hast avenged
our ruin, walking in a straight way before our God. And all the
people said, Amen, so be it."

The sequel of the story is, that the inspired prophetess directs
her citizens to rush down upon the army in the first confusion of
the loss of its general; and, this advice being followed, a general
panic and rout of the hostile army follows, and the whole camp is
taken and spoiled.

The story ends with a solemn procession of thanksgiving and worship,
the men wreathed with flowers around their armor, and headed by
Judith crowned with a garland of olive leaves, and leading forth a
solemn rhythmic dance while she sings a hymn of victory. This song
of Judith, evidently modeled on the victorious anthem of Deborah
under the same circumstances, is less vigorous and fiery, but more
polished and finished. Had it stood _alone_, it had been thought an
unrivalled composition of its kind. The animus of it is, in some
respects, the same with that of the song of Hannah,--it exults in
the might of God as the protector of the weak and helpless. There
is an intensely feminine exultation in the consciousness that she,
though weak as a woman, has been made the means of overcoming this

    "Assur came from the mountains of the north,
    He came with ten thousands of armies.
    The multitudes thereof stopped the torrents.
    Their horsemen covered the hills.
    He bragged that he would burn up my border,
    That he would kill my young men with the sword,
    That he would dash the sucking children against the ground,
    And make the children a prey and the virgins a spoil;
    But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed him by the hand of a woman!
    The mighty one did not fall by young men,
    Neither did the sons of Titans set upon him,
    Nor did high giants set upon him;
    But Judith, the daughter of Merari, weakened him with her beauty.
    For the exaltation of the oppressed in Israel
    She put off her garments of widowhood,
    She anointed herself with ointment,
    She bound her hair with a fillet,
    She took a linen garment to deceive him;
    Her sandals ravished his eyes,
    Her beauty took his mind prisoner,
    So the fauchion passed through his neck.
    I will sing unto my God a new song:
    O Lord, thou art great and glorious,
    Wonderful in strength and invincible.
    Let all creatures praise thee,
    For thou speakest and they were made,
    Thou sentest thy spirit and created them.
    There is none can resist thy voice;
    The mountains shall be moved from their foundations,
    The rocks shall melt like wax at thy presence,
    Yet art thou merciful to them that fear thee,
    For all sacrifice is too little for a sweet savor unto thee,
    All the fat is not enough for burnt-offerings;
    But he that feareth the Lord is great at all times."

How magnificent is the conception of the woman here given! Lowly,
devout, given up to loving memories of family life, yet capable in
the hour of danger of rising to the highest inspirations of power.
Poetess, prophetess, inspirer, leader, by the strength of that power
by which the helpless hold the hand of Almighty God and triumph in
his strength, she becomes the deliverer of her people.




No woman that ever lived on the face of the earth has been an
object of such wonder, admiration, and worship as Mary the mother
of Jesus. Around her poetry, painting, and music have raised clouds
of ever-shifting colors, splendid as those around the setting sun.
Exalted above earth, she has been shown to us as a goddess, yet
a goddess of a type wholly new. She is not Venus, not Minerva,
not Ceres, nor Vesta. No goddess of classic antiquity or of any
other mythology at all resembles that ideal being whom Christian
art and poetry present to us in Mary. Neither is she like all of
them united. She differs from them as Christian art differs from
classical, wholly and entirely. Other goddesses have been worshiped
for beauty, for grace, for power. Mary has been the Goddess of
Poverty and Sorrow, of Pity and Mercy; and as suffering is about the
only certain thing in human destiny, she has numbered her adorers
in every land and climate and nation. In Mary, womanhood, in its
highest and tenderest development of the MOTHER, has been the
object of worship. Motherhood with large capacities of sorrow, with
the memory of bitter sufferings, with sympathies large enough to
embrace every anguish of humanity!--such an object of veneration has
inconceivable power.

The art history that has gradually grown up around the personality
of the Madonna is entirely mythical. It is a long poem, recorded in
many a legend or tradition, and one which one may see represented,
scene after scene, in many a shrine and church and monastery devoted
to her honor.

According to these apocryphal accounts, the marvels begin before
her birth. Her parents, Joachim and Anna, of the royal race of
David, are childless, and bitterly grieved on this account. On a
great festival-day, when Joachim brings a double offering to the
Lord, he is rejected by the priest, saying, "It is not lawful for
thee to bring thine offering, since thou hast not begotten issue in
Israel." And Joachim was exceedingly sorrowful, and went away into
the wilderness, and fasted forty days and forty nights, and said,
"Until the Lord my God look upon mine affliction, my only meat shall
be prayer." Then follows a long account of the affliction of Anna,
and how she sat down under a laurel-tree in the garden, and bemoaned
herself and prayed. "And behold, the angel of the Lord stood by
her, and said, Anna, thy prayer is heard; thou shalt bring forth,
and thy child shall be blessed through the whole world. See, also,
thy husband Joachim is coming with his shepherds, for an angel hath
comforted him also. And Anna went forth to meet her husband, and
Joachim came from the pasture, and they met at the golden gate, and
Anna ran and embraced her husband, and said, Now know I that the
Lord hath blessed me."

Then comes the birth of the auspicious infant, with all manner of
signs of good omen. "And when the child was three years old, Joachim
said: Let us invite the daughters of Israel, that they may each take
a taper and a lamp, and attend on her, that the child may not turn
back from the temple of the Lord. And being come to the temple, they
placed her on the first step, and she ascended all the steps to the
altar, and the high-priest received her there, and kissed her and
blessed her, saying, Mary, the Lord hath magnified thy name to all
generations; in thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed."

A magnificent picture by Titian, in the Academy at Venice,
represents this scene. Everything about it is in gorgeous style,
except the little Mary, who is a very literal, earthly, chubby bit
of flesh and blood, and not in the least celestial. In the Church
of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, however, the child Mary,
going up the temple steps, is a perfect little angel with a cloud
of golden hair. Then we have flocks of pictures representing the
sacred girlhood of Mary. She is vowed to the temple service, and
spins and weaves and embroiders the purple and fine linen for
sacerdotal purposes. She is represented as looked upon with awe and
veneration by all the holy women who remain in the courts of the
Lord, especially by the prophetess Anna, who declares to her her
high destiny. It is recorded that her life was sustained by the
ministry of angels, who daily visited and brought to her the bread
of Paradise and the water of the River of Life. It is the tradition
of the Greek Church that Mary alone of all her sex was allowed to
enter the Holy of Holies, and pray before the ark of the covenant.

In her fourteenth year the priest announced to her that it was time
for her to be given in marriage, but she declared that she had vowed
a life of virginity, and declined. But the high-priest told her that
he had received a message from the Lord, and so she submitted. Then
the high-priest inquired of the Lord, and was bid to order all the
widowers of the people to come, each with his rod in his hand, that
the Lord might choose one by a sign. And Joseph the carpenter came
with the rest, and presented his rod, and lo! a white dove flew from
it, and settled upon his head. According to St. Jerome, however,
the tradition has another version. The rods of the candidates were
placed in the temple over night, and lo! in the morning Joseph's rod
had burst forth in leaves and flowers. The painting by Raphael, in
the Brera at Milan, as fresh in color now as if but of yesterday,
gives the mediæval conception of that wedding.

Then come pictures of the wonderful Annunciation, thick as lilies
in a meadow. The angel rainbow-wings, bedropped with gold, drift
noiselessly like a cloud into the oratory where the holy virgin
is in prayer, and bring her the wonderful story. The visitation
to her cousin Elizabeth, the birth of the infant Jesus, the visit
of the shepherds, the adoration of the Magi, come to our minds
with a confused and dazzling memory of all that human art can do,
with splendor of colors and richness of fancy, to embellish the
theme. The presentation in the temple, the flight into Egypt, the
repose by the way, the home-life at Nazareth, each has its clusters
of mythical stories that must be understood to read aright the
paintings that tell them. We behold angels bending the branches of
the trees to give the sacred wanderers fruit,--angels everywhere
ministering about the simple offices of life, pouring water to wash
the infant, holding the napkin, playing around him. Then come the
darker scenes of the passion, the Via Dolorosa, the station by the
cross, the sepulchers, in which all of pathos that human art can
produce has been employed to celebrate the memory of that mother's

There is a very ancient tradition spoken of by St. Ambrose, in the
fourth century, as being then generally believed, that Christ, after
his resurrection, appeared first to his mother,--she, who had his
last cares for anything earthly, was first to welcome his victory
over death. The story as given by Mrs. Jameson, in her "Legends
of the Madonna," is, that Mary, when all was finished, retired to
her solitude to pray, and wait for the promised resurrection; and
while she prayed, with the open volume of the prophecies before her,
a company of angels entered, waving their palms and singing, and
then came Jesus, in white, having in his left hand the standard of
the cross as one just returned from Hades, victorious over sin and
death, and with him came patriarchs and prophets and holy saints
of old. But the mother was not comforted till she heard the voice
of her son. Then he raised his hand and blessed her, and said,
"I salute thee, O my mother," and she fell upon his neck weeping
tears of joy. Then he bade her be comforted, and weep no more, for
the pain of death had passed away, and the gates of hell had not
prevailed against him; and she thanked him, meekly, on her knees,
that he had been pleased to bring redemption to man and make her the
humble instrument of his mercy. This legend has something in it so
grateful to human sympathies, that the heart involuntarily believes
it. Though the sacred record is silent, we may believe that He, who
loved his own unto the end, did not forget his mother in her hour of
deepest anguish.

After the resurrection, the only mention made of Mary by the
Evangelists is an incidental one in the first part of Acts. She is
spoken of as remaining in prayer with the small band of Christian
disciples, waiting for the promised Spirit which descended upon
the day of Pentecost. After this she fades from our view entirely.
According to the mythical history, however, her career of wonder
and glory is only begun. Imagination blossoms and runs wild in a
tropical landscape of poetic glories.

Mary is now the mother of the Christian Church. Before departing on
their divine missions, the apostles come and solicit her blessing.
The apocryphal books detail, at length, the circumstances of her
death and burial, and the ascension of her glorified body to heaven,
commonly called the Assumption. We make a few extracts: "And on
a certain day the heart of Mary was filled with an inexpressible
longing to behold her divine son, and she wept abundantly; and, lo,
an angel appeared before her, clothed in light as in a garment, and
he saluted her, and said, Hail, O Mary! blessed be he that giveth
salvation to Israel! I bring thee here a palm branch, gathered in
Paradise; command that it be carried before thy bier on the day
of thy death, for in three days thy soul shall leave thy body and
thou shalt enter Paradise, where thy son awaits thy coming." Mary
requested, in reply, three things,--the name of the angel; that she
might once more see the apostles before her departure; and that on
leaving the body no evil spirit should have power to affright her
soul. The angel declared his name to be the Great and Wonderful,
promised the reunion of the apostles around her dying bed, and
assured her against the powers of darkness. "And having said these
words, the angel departed into heaven; and, lo, the palm branch
which he had left shed light in every leaf, and sparkled as the
stars of the morning. Then Mary lighted the lamps and prepared
her bed, and waited for the hour to come. And in the same instant
John, who was preaching in Ephesus, and Peter, who was preaching at
Antioch, and all the other apostles, who were dispersed in different
parts of the world, were suddenly caught up by a miraculous power,
and found themselves before the habitation of Mary. When Mary saw
them all around her, she blessed and thanked the Lord, and placed
in the hands of St. John the shining palm, and desired that he
should bear it at the time of her burial."

It is then recorded that at the third hour of the night there came
a sound as of a rushing mighty wind upon the house, and the chamber
was filled with a heavenly odor, and Jesus himself appeared with a
great train of patriarchs and prophets, who surrounded the dying
bed, singing hymns of joy; and Jesus said to his mother, "Arise,
my beloved, mine elect, come with me from Lebanon, mine espoused,
and receive the crown prepared for thee." And Mary answered, "My
heart is ready; in the book is it written of me, Lo, I come to do
thy will." Then amid songs of angels, the soul of Mary left her
body and passed to the arms of Jesus. A beautiful little picture
by Fra Angelico represents this scene. The soul of Mary is seen as
an infant in the arms of Jesus, who looks down on it with heavenly
tenderness. The lifeless form, as it lies surrounded by the weeping
apostles, has that sacred and touching beauty that so often seals
with the seal of Heaven the face of the dead. It is a picture
painted by the heart, and worthy to be remembered for a lifetime.

Then follows an account of the funeral, and where the body was laid;
but, like that of Jesus, it was not destined to see corruption,
and on the morning of the third day she rose in immortal youth
and beauty, and ascended to heaven amid troops of angels, blowing
their silver trumpets and singing as they rose, "Who is she that
riseth fair as the moon, clear as the sun, terrible as an army with
banners?" The legend goes on to say that Thomas was not present,
and that when he arrived he refused to believe in her resurrection,
and desired that her tomb should be opened; and when it was opened,
it was found full of lilies and roses. Then Thomas, looking up to
heaven, beheld her in glory, and she, for the assurance of his
faith, threw down to him her girdle.

Thus far the legends.[6] One may stand in the Academy in Venice and
see the scene of Mary's ascension in the great picture of Titian,
which seems to lift one off one's feet, and fairly draw one upward
in its glory of color and its ecstasy of triumphant joy. It is a
charming feature in this picture that the holy mother is represented
as borne up by myriads of lovely little children. Such a picture is
a vivid rendering to the eye of the spirit of the age which produced

  [6] The sources from which these are drawn are the apocryphal books
  of the New Testament.

Once started, the current of enthusiasm for the Madonna passed all
bounds, and absorbed into itself all that belonged to the Saviour
of mankind. All the pity, the mercy, the sympathy, of Jesus were
forgotten and overshadowed in the image of this divine mother.
Christ, to the mind of the Middle Ages, was only the awful Judge,
whom Michael Angelo painted in his terrific picture grasping
thunderbolts, and dealing damnation on the lost, while his pitiful
mother hides her eyes from the sight.

Dr. Pusey, in his "Eirenicon," traces the march of mariolatry
through all the countries of the world. He shows how to Mary
have been ascribed, one after another, all the divine attributes
and offices. How she is represented commanding her son in heaven
with the authority of a mother; and how he is held to owe to her
submissive obedience. How she, being identified with him in all
that he is and does, is received with him in the sacrament, and
is manifest in the real presence. In short, how, by the enormous
growth of an idea, there comes to be at last _no God but Mary_.
Martin Luther describes, in his early experiences, how completely
the idea of the true Redeemer was hidden from his mind by this style
of representation; that in the ceremony of the mass he trembled,
and his knees sunk under him for fear, on account of the presence
of Christ the Judge of the earth. When we look back to the earlier
ecclesiastical history, we find no trace of all this peculiar
veneration. None of the Apocryphal Gospels have higher antiquity
than the third or fourth century.

In Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, article _Mary_, this question is
settled by a comprehensive statement.[7] "What," the writer says,
"was the origin of this _cultus_? Certainly not the Bible. There is
not a word there from which it could be inferred, nor in the creeds,
nor in the fathers of the first five centuries. We may trace every
page they have left us, and we shall find nothing of the kind. There
is nothing of the sort in the supposed works of Hermas and Barnabas,
nor in the real works of Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp; that is,
the doctrine is not to be found in the first century. There is
nothing in Justin Martyr, Tatian, Anathagoras, Theophilus, Clement
of Alexandria, Tertullian; that is to say, nothing in the second

  [7] The article is by Rev. F. Meyrick, M. A., one of her Majesty's
  inspectors of schools, late fellow and tutor of Trinity College,

In the same manner he reviews the authors of the third, the fourth,
the fifth century, and shows that there are no traces of this
style of feeling. Moreover, he cites passages from the Christian
fathers of the first three or four centuries, where Mary is as
freely spoken of and criticised, and represented subject to sins of
infirmity, as other Christians. Tertullian speaks of her "unbelief."
Origen interprets the sword that should pierce through her heart
as "unbelief"; and in the fourth century, St. Basil gives the same
interpretation; in the fifth century, St. Chrysostom accuses her of
excessive ambition and foolish arrogance and vainglory, in wishing
to speak with Jesus while engaged in public ministries. Several
others are quoted, commenting upon her in a manner that must be
painful to the sensibility of even those who never cherished for
her a superstitious veneration. No person of delicate appreciation
of character can read the brief narrative of the New Testament and
not feel that such comments do great injustice to the noblest and
loveliest among women.

The character of Mary has suffered by reaction from the idolatrous
and fulsome adoration which has been bestowed on her. In the height
of the controversy between Protestants and the Romish church there
has been a tendency to the side of unjust depreciation on the part
of the former to make up for the unscriptural excesses of the
latter. What, then, was the true character of Mary, highly favored,
and blessed among women? It can only be _inferred_ by the most
delicate analysis of the little that the Scripture has given; this
we reserve for another article.


From out the cloudy ecstasies of poetry, painting, and religious
romance, we grope our way back to the simple story of the New
Testament, to find, if possible, by careful study, the lineaments of
the real Mary the mother of our Lord. Who and what really was _the
woman_ highly favored over all on earth, chosen by God to be the
mother of the Redeemer of the world? It is our impression that the
true character will be found more sweet, more strong, more wonderful
in its perfect naturalness and humanity, than the idealized,
superangelic being which has been gradually created by poetry and

That the Divine Being, in choosing a woman to be the mother, the
educator, and for thirty years the most intimate friend, of his son,
should have selected one of rare and peculiar excellences seems only
probable. It was from her that the holy child, who was to increase
in wisdom and in stature, was to learn from day to day the constant
and needed lessons of inexperienced infancy and childhood. Her
lips taught him human language; her lessons taught him to read the
sacred records of the law and the prophets, and the sacred poetry
of the psalms; to her he was "subject," when the ardor of childhood
expanding into youth led him to quit her side and spend his time
in the temple at the feet of the Doctors of the Law; with her he
lived in constant communion during those silent and hidden years of
his youth that preceded his mission. A woman so near to Christ, so
identified with him in the largest part of his life, cannot but be
a subject of the deepest and most absorbing study to the Christian
heart. And yet there is in regard to this most interesting subject
an utter silence of any authentic tradition, so far as we have
studied, of the first two or three centuries. There is nothing
related by St. John, with whom Mary lived as with a son after the
Saviour's death, except the very brief notices in his Gospel. Upon
this subject, as upon that other topic so exciting to the mere human
heart, the personal appearance of Jesus, there is a reticence that
impresses us like a divine decree of secrecy.

In all that concerns the peculiarly human relations of Jesus, the
principle that animated his apostles after the descent of the Holy
Spirit was, "Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet
now, henceforth, know we him no more." His family life with his
mother would doubtless have opened lovely pages; but it must remain
sealed up among those many things spoken of by St. John, which, if
they were recorded, the "world itself could not contain the books
that should be written." All that we have, then, to build upon is
the brief account given in the Gospels. The first two chapters of
St. Matthew and the first two chapters of St. Luke are our only
data, except one or two very brief notices in St. John, and one
slight mention in the Acts.

In part, our conception of the character of Mary may receive light
from her nationality. A fine human being is never the product of one
generation, but rather the outcome of a growth of ages. Mary was
the offspring and flower of a race selected, centuries before, from
the finest physical stock of the world, watched over, trained, and
cultured, by Divine oversight, in accordance with every physical
and mental law for the production of sound and vigorous mental and
bodily conditions. Her blood came to her in a channel of descent
over which the laws of Moses had established a watchful care; a race
where marriage had been made sacred, family life a vital point, and
motherhood invested by Divine command with an especial sanctity.
As Mary was in a certain sense a product of the institutes of
Moses, so it is an interesting coincidence that she bore the name
of his sister, the first and most honored of the line of Hebrew
prophetesses,--Mary being the Latin version of the Hebrew Miriam.
She had also, as we read, a sister, the wife of Cleopas, who bore
the same name,--a custom not infrequent in Jewish families. It
is suggested, that, Miriam being a sacred name and held in high
traditionary honor, mothers gave it to their daughters, as now in
Spain they call them after the Madonna as a sign of good omen.

There is evidence that Mary had not only the sacred name of the
first great prophetess, but that she inherited, in the line of
descent, the poetic and prophetic temperament. She was of the
royal line of David, and poetic visions and capabilities of high
enthusiasm were in her very lineage. The traditions of the holy and
noble women of her country's history were all open to her as sources
of inspiration. Miriam, leading the song of national rejoicing on
the shore of the Red Sea; Deborah, mother, judge, inspirer, leader,
and poet of her nation; Hannah, the mother who won so noble a son
of Heaven by prayer; the daughter of Jephtha, ready to sacrifice
herself to her country; Huldah, the prophetess, the interpreter of
God's will to kings; Queen Esther, risking her life for her people;
and Judith, the beautiful and chaste deliverer of her nation,--these
were the spiritual forerunners of Mary, the ideals with whom her
youthful thoughts must have been familiar.

The one hymn of Mary's composition which has found place in the
sacred records pictures in a striking manner the exalted and poetic
side of her nature. It has been compared with the song of Hannah
the mother of Samuel, and has been spoken of as taken from it. But
there is only that resemblance which sympathy of temperament and a
constant contemplation of the same class of religious ideas would
produce. It was the exaltation of a noble nature expressing itself
in the form and imagery supplied by the traditions and history of
her nation. We are reminded that Mary was a daughter of David by
certain tones in her magnificent hymn, which remind us of many of
the Psalms of that great heart-poet.

Being of royal lineage, Mary undoubtedly cherished in her bosom the
traditions of her house with that secret fervor which belongs to
enthusiastic natures. We are to suppose her, like all Judæan women,
intensely national in her feelings. She identified herself with her
country's destiny, lived its life, suffered in its sufferings,
and waited and prayed for its deliverance and glories. This was a
time of her nation's deep humiliation. The throne and scepter had
passed from Judah. Conquered, trodden down, and oppressed, the
sacred land was under the rule of Pagan Rome; Herod, the appointed
sovereign, was a blaspheming, brutal tyrant, using all his power to
humiliate and oppress; and we may imagine Mary as one of the small
company of silent mourners, like Simeon, and Anna the prophetess,
who pondered the Scriptures and "looked for salvation in Israel."
She was betrothed to her cousin Joseph, who was, like herself, of
the royal lineage. He was a carpenter, in accordance with that
excellent custom of the Jewish law which required every man to be
taught a mechanical trade. They were in humble circumstances, and
dwelt in a village proverbial for the meanness and poverty of its
inhabitants. We can imagine them as _in_, but not _of_, the sordid
and vulgar world of Nazareth, living their life of faith and prayer,
of mournful memories of past national glory, and longing hopes for
the future.

The account of the visitation of the angel to Mary is given by St.
Luke, and by him alone. His Gospel was written later than those of
Matthew and Mark, and designed for the Greek churches, and it seems
but natural that in preparing himself to write upon this theme
he should seek information from Mary herself, the fountain-head.
Biblical critics discover traces of this communication in the
different style of these first two chapters of St. Luke. While the
rest of the book is written in pure classic Greek, this is full
of Hebraisms, and has all the marks of being translated from the
Syro-Chaldaic tongue, which was the popular dialect of Palestine,
and in which Mary must have given her narrative.

Let us now look at the simple record. "And in the sixth month
the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee named
Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house
of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto
her and said, Hail, highly favored! the Lord is with thee; blessed
art thou among women! And when she saw him she was troubled at his
saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should

All these incidents, in their very nature, could be known to Mary
alone. She was in solitude, without a human witness; from her the
whole detail must have come. It gives not only the interview, but
the passing thoughts and emotions of her mind; she was agitated,
and cast about what this should mean. We see in all this that
serious, calm, and balanced nature which was characteristic of Mary.
Habitually living in the contemplation of that spirit-world revealed
in the Scriptures, it was no very startling thing to her to see an
angel standing by,--her thoughts had walked among the angels too
long for that; but his enthusiastic words of promise and blessing
agitated her soul.

"And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found
favor with God, and behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring
forth a son and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and
shall be called the Son of the Highest, and the Lord God shall give
unto him the throne of his father[8] David, and he shall reign over
the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no

  [8] It is remarkable that in this interview the angel, in the same
  connection, informs Mary that her son shall have no human father,
  and that David shall be his ancestor. The inference is clear that
  Mary is herself of the house of David. Coincident with this we find
  a genealogy of Jesus in this Gospel of Luke differing entirely
  from the genealogy in Matthew. Very able critics have therefore
  contended that, as Luke evidently received his account from Mary,
  the genealogy he gives is that of _her_ ancestry, and that the
  "_Heli_" who is mentioned in Luke as the ancestor of Jesus was his
  grandfather, the father of Mary. Very skillful and able Biblical
  critics have supported this view, among whom are Paulus, Spanheim,
  and Lightfoot. The latter goes the length of saying that there
  are no difficulties in these genealogies but what have been made
  by commentators. In Lightfoot, notes in Luke, third chapter, the
  argument is given at length, and he adds testimonies to show that
  Mary was called the daughter of Heli by the early Jewish Rabbins,
  who traduced her for her pretensions in reference to her son. He
  quotes three passages from different Rabbins in the Jerusalem
  Talmud, or "Chigagah," folio 77. 4, where this Mary, mother of
  Jesus, is denounced as the "daughter of _Heli_ and mother of a

A weaker woman would have been dazzled and overcome by such a
vision,--appealing to all her personal ambition,--and her pride of
nation and her religious enthusiasm telling her that she had drawn
the prize which had been the high ideal of every Jewish woman from
the beginning of time. But Mary faces the great announcement with a
countenance of calm inquiry. "Then said Mary to the angel, How shall
this be, seeing I am yet a virgin?" And the angel answered and said
unto her, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee; the power of the
Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore, also, that holy progeny
which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God; and
behold, also, thy cousin Elisabeth, she also hath conceived a son
in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called
barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible."

In this announcement a Jewish betrothed woman must have seen a
future of danger to her reputation and her life; for who would
believe a story of which there was no mortal witness? But Mary
accepted the high destiny and the fearful danger with an entire
surrender of herself into God's hands. Her reply is not one of
exultation, but of submission. "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be
it unto me according to his word."

The next step taken by Mary is in accordance with the calmest
practical good sense, and displays an energy and a control over
other minds which must have been uncommon. She resolves to visit
her cousin Elisabeth in the mountain country. The place is supposed
to have been near Hebron, and involved a journey of some twenty
miles through a rugged country. For a young maiden to find means of
performing this journey, which involved attendance and protection,
without telling the reason for which she resolved upon it, seems to
show that Mary had that kind of character which inspires confidence,
and leads those around her to feel that a thing is right and proper
because she has determined it.

The scene of the visitation as given in St. Luke shows the height
above common thought and emotion on which these holy women moved.
Elisabeth, filled with inspired ardor, spoke out with a loud voice
and said, "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit
of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord
should come to me? And blessed be she that believed: for there shall
be a performance of those things which have been promised of the
Lord." Then the prophetic fire fell upon Mary, and she broke forth
into the immortal psalm which the Church still cherishes as the
first hymn of the new dispensation.

    "My soul doth magnify the Lord;
    My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour,
    For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaid;
    For, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed!
    For he that is mighty hath done great things to me,
    And holy is his name,
    And his mercy is on them that fear him
    From generation to generation.
    He hath showed strength with his arm;
    He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts,
    He hath put down the mighty from their seats
    And exalted them of low degree,
    He hath filled the hungry with good things
    And the rich hath he sent empty away,
    He hath holpen his servant Israel
    In remembrance of his mercy,
    As he spake to our fathers,
    To Abraham and his seed forever."

In these words we see, as in the song of Hannah, the exaltation of a
purely unselfish spirit, whose personal experiences merge themselves
in those of universal humanity. One line alone expresses her intense
sense of the honor done her, and all the rest is exultation in her
God as the helper of the poor, the neglected, the despised and
forgotten, and the Saviour of her oppressed country. No legend of
angel ministrations or myths of miracle can so glorify Mary in our
eyes as this simple picture of her pure and lofty unselfishness of

We are told that this sacred visit lasted three months. A mythical
legend speaks of a large garden, pertaining to the priests' house,
where Mary was wont to walk for meditation and prayer, and that,
bending one day over a flower, beautiful, but devoid of fragrance,
she touched it and thenceforth it became endowed with a sweet
perfume. The myth is a lovely allegory of the best power of a true
and noble Christian woman.

On returning to Nazareth, Mary confronted the danger which beset
her situation with the peculiar, silent steadfastness which
characterized her. From the brief narrative of Matthew, which
mainly respects the feelings of Joseph, we infer that Mary made no
effort at self-justification, but calmly resigned herself to the
vindication of God in his own time and way. As the private feelings
of Mary are recorded only by Luke, and the private experiences
of Joseph by Matthew, it is to be supposed that the narrative is
derived from these two sources.

We have no other characteristic incident of Mary's conduct; nothing
that she said or did during the next eventful scenes of her life.
The journey to Bethlehem, the birth-of Jesus, the visit of the
shepherds and of the magi, full of the loveliest poetic suggestion,
are all silent shrines so far as utterance or action of hers is
given to us. That she was peculiarly a silent woman is inferred from
the only mention of her, in particular, by St. Luke when recording
these wonderful scenes. When the shepherds, sent by angelic
visitors, came to Bethlehem, we are told, "And they came with haste,
and found Joseph and Mary, and the babe lying in a manger; and when
they had seen it they made known abroad the saying which was told
them concerning this child. And all that heard it wondered. _But
Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart._" She is
one of those women who are remarkable for the things they do _not_

We next find her at Jerusalem, going with her husband to present
her first-born son in the Temple, and to offer the humble sacrifice
appointed for the poor. A modern English painting represents her
as sheltering in her bosom the two innocent white doves destined
to bloody death, emblems of the fate of the holy child whom she
presented. Here the sacred story gives an interesting incident.

We catch a glimpse at one of the last of the Hebrew prophetesses in
the form of Anna, of whom the narrative says, "She was of great age,
and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity, and
she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed
not from the Temple, but served God with fasting and prayer day and
night." She came in and welcomed the holy child. We are introduced
also to the last of the prophets. "And behold there was a man in
Jerusalem named Simeon, and the same was just and devout, waiting
for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Ghost was upon him, and
it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not see
death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah. And he came by the
Spirit into the Temple; and when the parents brought in the child
Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, then took
he him up in his arms and blessed God and said:--

    "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
    For mine eyes have seen thy salvation
    Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
    A light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of thy people Israel."

And Joseph and his mother marveled at the things which were spoken
of him. The contrast between the helpless babe and the magnificence
of his promised destiny kept them in a state of constant
astonishment. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his
mother, "Behold this child is set for the fall and the rising again
of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against. Yea,
a sword shall pierce through thine own soul also, that the thoughts
of many hearts may be revealed."

This prophecy must have been a strange enigma to Mary. According to
the prediction of the angel, her son was to be a triumphant king, to
reign on the throne of his father David, to restore the old national
prestige, and to make his people rulers over the whole earth. The
great truth that the kingdom was not of this world, and the dominion
a moral victory; that it was to be won through rejection, betrayal,
denial, torture, and shameful death; that the Jewish nation were
to be finally uprooted and scattered,--all this was as much hidden
from the eyes of Mary as from those of the whole nation. The gradual
unveiling of this mystery was to test every character connected
with it by the severest wrench of trial. The latent worldliness and
pride of many, seemingly good, would be disclosed, and even the
pure mother would be pierced to the very heart with the anguish of
disappointed hopes. Such was the prophecy of which the life of Mary
was a long fulfillment. The slow perplexity of finding an entirely
different destiny for her son from the brilliant one foretold
in prophetic symbols was to increase from year to year, till it
culminated at the foot of the cross.

The next we see of Mary is the scene in the Temple where she seeks
her son. It shows the social and cheerful nature of the boy, and
the love in which he was held, that she should have missed him a
whole day from her side without alarm, supposing that he was with
the other children of the great family caravans traveling festively
homeward from Jerusalem. Not finding him, she returns alarmed to
Jerusalem, and, after three days of fruitless search, finds him
sitting in the school of the doctors of the Temple. Her agitation
and suppressed alarm betray themselves in her earnest and grieved
words: "Son, why hast thou dealt thus with us? behold thy father
and I have sought thee sorrowing." The answer of Jesus was given
with an unconscious artlessness, as a child of heaven might speak.
"Why did you seek me? Did you not know I would be at my Father's
house?"[9] This was doubtless one of those peculiar outflashings of
an inward light which sometimes break unconsciously from childhood,
and it is said, "They understood not the saying." It was but a gleam
of the higher nature, and it was gone in a moment; for it is said
immediately after that he went down with them unto Nazareth, and was
subject to them; but, it is added significantly, "his mother kept
all these sayings and pondered them in her heart." Then came twenty
years of obscurity and silence, when Jesus lived the plain, literal
life of a village mechanic. "Is not this the carpenter, the son of
Mary?" they said of him when he appeared in the synagogue of his
native village.

  [9] This is said by able critics to be the sense of the original.

How unaccountable to Mary must have appeared that silence! It was as
if God had forgotten his promises. The son of her cousin Elisabeth,
too, grew up and lived the life of an anchorite in the desert. It
appears from his testimony afterwards that he kept up no personal
acquaintance with Jesus, and "knew him not," so that a sign from
heaven was necessary to enable him to recognize the Messiah.

From the specimens of the village gossip at the time of Christ's
first public teaching in Nazareth, it appears that neither in the
mother of Christ nor in Christ himself had his townsfolk seen
anything to excite expectation. In his last prayer Jesus says to
his Father, "O righteous Father, the world hath not _known_ thee."
In like manner Nazareth _knew_ not Mary and Jesus. "He was in the
world, and the world was made by him, and the world _knew_ him not."

At last comes the call of John the Baptist; the wave of popular
feeling rises, and Jesus leaves his mother to go to his baptism,
his great initiation. The descending Spirit, the voice from heaven,
ordain him to his work, but immediately the prophetic impulse drives
him from the habitation of man, and for more than a month he wanders
in the wilderness, on the borders of that spirit-land where he
encountered the temptations that were to fit him for his work. We
shall see that the whole drift of these temptations was, that he
should use his miraculous powers and gifts for personal ends: he
should create bread to satisfy the pangs of his own hunger, instead
of waiting on the providence of God; he should cast himself from
the pinnacles of the Temple, that he might be upborne by angels and
so descend among the assembled multitude with the pomp and splendor
befitting his station; instead of the toilsome way of a religious
teacher, laboring for success through the slowly developing
spiritual life of individuals, he should seek the kingdoms of the
world and the glory of them, and spread his religion by their
power. But, in all the past traditions of the prophetic office, the
_supernatural power_ was always regarded as a sacred deposit never
to be used by its possessor for any private feeling or personal end.
Elijah fasted forty days in his wanderings without using this gift
to supply his own wants; and Jesus, the greatest of the prophets,
was the most utterly and thoroughly possessed with the unselfish
spirit of the holy office, and repelled from him with indignation
every suggestion of the tempter.

When he returned from his seclusion in the desert, we find him once
more in his mother's society, and we see them united in the episode
of the marriage at Cana. His mother's mind is, doubtless, full of
the mysterious change that has passed upon her son and of triumph
in his high calling. She knows that he has received the gift of
miraculous power, though as yet he has never used it. It was most
human, and most natural, and quite innocent, that after so many
years of patient waiting she should wish to see this bright career
of miracles begin. His family also might have felt some of the
eagerness of family pride in the display of his gifts.

When, therefore, by an accident, the wedding festivities are at a
stand, Mary turns to her son with the habit of a mother who has
felt for years that she owned all that her son could do, and of a
Jewish mother who had always commanded his reverence. She thinks, to
herself, that he has the power of working miracles, and here is an
opportunity to display it. She does not directly ask, but there is
suggestion in the very manner in which she looks to him and says,
"They have no wine." Immediately from him, usually so tender and
yielding, comes an abrupt repulse, "Woman,[10] what have I to do
with thee? mine hour is not yet come." What sacred vital spot has
she touched unaware with her maternal hand? It is, although she
knows it not, the very one which had been touched before by the
Enemy in the wilderness.

  [10] The address "woman" sounds abrupt and harsh, but in the
  original language it was a term of respect. Our Lord, in his dying
  moments, used the same form to his mother,--"Woman, behold thy son."

This sacred, mysterious, awful gift of miracles was not his to
use for any personal feeling or desire, not to gratify a mother's
innocent ambition, or to please the family pride of kindred; and
there is the earnestness of a sense of danger in the manner in which
he throws off the suggestion, the same abrupt earnestness with which
he afterwards rebuked Peter when he pleaded with him to avoid the
reproaches and sufferings which lay in his path.

The whole of this story is not told in full, but it is evident that
the understanding between Jesus and his mother was so immediate,
that, though he had reproved her for making the suggestion, she
was still uncertain whether he might not yet see it consistent to
perform the miracle, and so, at once, leaving it to him in meek
submission, she said to the servants standing by, "Whatsoever he
saith unto you do it." This tone to the servants, assumed by Mary,
shows the scene to have occurred in the family of a kinsman, where
she felt herself in the position of directress.

After an interval of some time, Jesus commands the servants to fill
the watering-pots with water, and performs the desired miracle.
We cannot enter into the secret sanctuary of that divine mind,
nor know exactly what Jesus meant by saying "Mine hour is not yet
come"; it was a phrase of frequent occurrence with him when asked
to take steps in his life. Probably it was some inward voice or
call by which he felt the Divine will moving with his own, and he
waited after the suggestion of Mary till this became clear to him.
What he might not do from partial affection, he might do at the
Divine motion, as sanctioning that holy state of marriage which the
Jewish law had done so much to make sacred. The first miracle of the
Christian dispensation was wrought in honor of the family state,
which the Mosaic dispensation had done so much to establish and

The trials of Mary as a mother were still further complicated by the
unbelief of her other children in the divine mission of Jesus. His
brethren had the usual worldly view of who and what the Messiah was
to be. He was to come as a conquering king, with pomp of armies, and
reign in Jerusalem. This silent, prayerful brother of theirs, who
has done nothing but work at his trade, wander in the wilderness
and pray and preach, even though gifted with miraculous power, does
not seem in the least to them like a king and conqueror. He may be
a prophet, but as the great Messiah they cannot believe in him.
They fear, in fact, that he is losing his senses in wild, fanatical

We have a scene given by St. John where his brethren urge him, if
he is the Messiah and has divine power, to go up to Jerusalem and
make a show of it at once. The feast of tabernacles is at hand,
and his brethren say to him, "Depart hence and go into Judæa, that
thy disciples may see the works that thou doest. If thou do these
things, _show thyself to the world_. For neither did his brethren
believe on him. Then said Jesus, My time is not yet come; but your
time is always ready. The world cannot hate you, but me it hateth
because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up to
this feast. I go not up yet, for my time is not yet full come."

To the practical worldly eye, Jesus was wasting his time and
energies. If he was to set up a kingdom, why not go to Jerusalem,
work splendid miracles, enlist the chief-priests and scribes, rouse
the national spirit, unfurl the standard, and conquer? Instead of
that he begins his ministry by choosing two or three poor men as
disciples, and going on foot from village to village preaching
repentance. He is simply doing the work of a home missionary. True,
there come reports of splendid miracles, but they are wrought in
obscure places among very poor people, and apparently with no motive
but the impulse of compassion and love to the suffering. Then he
is exhausting himself in labors, he is thronged by the crowds of
the poor and sorrowful, till he has no time so much as to eat. His
brethren, taking the strong, coarse, worldly view of the matter,
think he is destroying himself, and that he ought to be taken home
by his friends with friendly violence till he recover the balance
of his mind; as it is said by one Evangelist, "They went out to
lay hands on him, for they said, He is beside himself." Thus the
prophecy is fulfilling: he is a sign that is spoken against; the
thoughts of many hearts are being revealed through him, and the
sword is piercing deeper and deeper every day into the heart of his
mother. Her heart of heart is touched,--in this son is her life; she
is filled with anxiety, she longs to go to him,--they need not lay
hands on him; _she_ will speak to him,--he who always loved her
voice, and for so many years has been subject to her, will surely
come back with _her_. In this hour of her life Mary is the type
of the trial through which all mothers must pass at the time when
they are called on to resign a son to his destiny in the world, and
to feel that he is theirs no more; that henceforth he belongs to
another life, other duties and affections, than theirs. Without this
experience of sorrow Mary would have been less dear to the heart of
mortal woman and mother.

Jesus, meanwhile, is surrounded by an eager crowd to whom he is
teaching the way to God. He is in that current of joy above all joy
where he can see the new immortal life springing up under his touch;
he feels in himself the ecstasy of that spiritual vigor which he is
awakening in all around him; he is comforting the mourner, opening
the eyes of the spiritually blind, and lighting the fire of heavenly
love in cold and comfortless hearts. Love without bounds, the love
of the shepherd and bishop of souls, flows from him to the poor whom
he is enriching. The ecstatic moment is interrupted by a message:
"Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with
thee." With a burst of heavenly love he spreads his arms towards the
souls whom he is guiding, and says, "Who is my mother and who are
my brethren? My mother and my brethren are _these_ that hear the
Word of God and do it; for whosoever will do the will of my Father
in heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother." As well
attempt to imprison the light of the joyous sun in one dwelling as
to bound the infinite love of Jesus by one family!

There was an undoubted purpose in the record of these two places
where Jesus so positively declares that he had risen to a sphere
with which his maternal relations had nothing to do. They were set
as a warning and a protest, in advance, against that idolatry of the
woman and mother the advent of which he must have foreseen.

In the same manner we learn that, while he was teaching, a woman
cried out in enthusiasm, "Blessed be the womb that bore thee, and
the paps that thou hast sucked." But he answered, "Yea, rather,
blessed are they that hear the Word of God and do it." In the same
grave spirit of serious admonition he checked the delight of his
disciples when they exulted in miraculous gifts. "Lord, even the
devils were subject unto us." "Rejoice not that the devils are
subject to you, but rather rejoice that your names are written in

Undoubtedly an hour was found to console and quiet the fears of his
mother so far as in the nature of the case they could be consoled.
But the radical difficulty, with her as with his own disciples, lay
in the fixed and rooted idea of the temporal Messianic kingdom.
There was an awful depth of sorrow before them, to which every
day was bringing them nearer. It was pathetic to see how Jesus
was moving daily among friends that he loved and to whom he
knew that his career was to be one of the bitterest anguish and
disappointment. He tried in the plainest words to tell them the
scenes of his forthcoming trial, rejection, suffering, death, and
resurrection,--words so plain that we wonder any one could hear them
and not understand,--and yet it is written, "They understood not his
saying. They questioned one with another what the rising from the
dead should mean." They discussed offices and stations in the new
kingdom, and contended who should be greatest. When the mother of
James and John asked the place of honor for her sons, he looked at
her with a pathetic patience.

"Ye know not what ye ask. Can ye drink of the cup that I shall
drink? Can ye be baptized with my baptism? They said, We are able."
He answered, with the scenes of the cross in view, "Ye shall,
indeed, drink of the cup I shall drink, and be baptized with my
baptism; but to sit on my right hand and my left is not mine to
give. It shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my

We see no more of Mary till we meet her again standing with the
beloved John at the foot of the cross. The supreme hour is come; the
sword has gone to the depths! All that she hoped is blasted, and
all that she feared is come! In this hour, when faith and hope were
both darkened, Mary stood by the power of love. _She stood by the
cross!_ The words are characteristic and wonderful. We see still the
same intense, outwardly collected woman who met the salutation of
the angel with calm inquiry, and accepted glory and danger with such
self-surrender,--silent, firm, sustained in her anguish as in her
joy! After years of waiting and hope deferred, after such glorious
miracles, such mighty deeds and words, such evident tokens of God's
approval, she sees her son forsaken by God and man. To hers as to no
other mortal ears must have sounded that death-cry, "My God, my God,
why hast _thou_ forsaken me?"

But through all, Mary _stood_; she did not faint or fall,--she was
resolved to drink of HIS cup to the last bitter dregs. Though the
whole world turn against him, though God himself seems to forsake
him, she will stand by him, she will love him, she will adore him
till death, and after, and forever!

The dying words of Jesus have been collected and arranged by the
Church in a rosary,--pearls brought up from the depths of a profound
agony, and of precious value in all sorrow. Of those seven last
words it is remarkable what a proportion were words for other than
himself. The first sharp pang of torture wrung from him the prayer,
"Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." The second word
was of pardon and comfort to the penitent thief. The third the
commendation of his mother to his beloved friend.

If any mortal creature might be said to have entered into the
sufferings of the great atonement with Jesus, it was his mother in
those last hours. Never has sorrow presented itself in a form so
venerable. Here is a depth of anguish which inspires awe as well
as tenderness. The magnificent "Stabat Mater," in which the Church
commemorates Mary's agony, is an outburst with which no feeling
heart can refuse sympathy. We rejoice when again we meet her, after
the resurrection, in the company of all the faithful, waiting to
receive that promised illumination of the Holy Spirit which solved
every mystery and made every doubt clear.

In all this history we see the picture of a woman belonging to that
rare and beautiful class who approach the nearest to our ideal of
angelic excellence. We see a woman in whom the genius and fire of
the poet and prophetess is tempered by a calm and equable balance
of the intellect; a woman not only to feel deeply, but to examine
calmly and come to just results, and to act with energy befitting
every occasion. Hers are the powers which might, in the providence
of God, have had a public mission, but they are all concentrated in
the nobler, yet secret mission of the mother. She lived and acted
in her son, not in herself. There seems to be evidence that both
Jesus and his mother had that constitutional delicacy and refinement
that made solitude and privacy peculiarly dear, and the hurry and
bustle and inevitable vulgarities of a public career a trial. Mary
never seems to have sought to present herself as a public teacher;
and in the one instance when she sought her son in public, it was
from the tremulous anxiety of a mother's affection rather than the
self-assertion of a mother's pride. In short, Mary is presented to
us as the mother, and the mother alone, seeking no other sphere.
Like a true mother she passed out of self into her son, and the life
that she lived was in him; and in this sacred self-abnegation she
must forever remain, the one ideal type of perfect motherhood.

This entire absence of self-seeking and self-assertion is the
crowning perfection of Mary's character. The steadiness, the silent
reticence, with which she held herself subject to God's will,
waiting calmly on his Providence, never by a hasty word or an
imprudent action marring the divine order or seeking to place self
in the foreground, is an example which we may all take reverently to
our own bosoms.

We may not adore, but we may love her. She herself would not that
we turn from her Son to invoke her; but we may tenderly rejoice in
the feeling so common in the primitive Church, that in drawing near
to Jesus we draw near to all the holy who were dear to him, and so
to her, the most blessed among women. We long to know more of this
hidden life of Mary on earth, but it is a comfort to remember that
these splendid souls with whom the Bible makes us acquainted are
neither dead nor lost. If we "hear the Word of God and do it," we
may hope some day to rise to the world where we shall find them, and
ask of them all those untold things which our hearts yearn to know.



In the great drama of the history of Jesus many subordinate figures
move across the stage, indicated with more or less power by the
unconscious and artless simplicity of the narrative. Among these
is the daughter of Herodias, whose story has often been a favorite
subject among artists as giving an opportunity of painting female
beauty and fascination in affinity with the deepest and most
dreadful tragedy.

Salome was the daughter of Herodias, who was a woman of unbridled
passions and corrupt will. This Herodias had eloped from her husband
Philip, son of Herod the Great, to marry her step-uncle, Herod
Antipas, who forsook for her his lawful wife, the daughter of the
king of Arabia. Herod appears in the story of the Gospels as a man
with just enough conscience and aspiration after good to keep him
always uneasy, but not enough to restrain from evil.

When the ministry of John powerfully excited the public mind, we are
told by St. Mark that "Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just
man and holy, and he observed him, and when he heard him he did many
things and heard him gladly."

The Jewish religion strongly cultivated conscience and a belief
in the rewards and punishments of a future life, and the style of
John's preaching was awful and monitory. "Behold the axe is laid
at the root of the tree, and whatsoever tree doth not bring forth
good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire." There was
no indulgence for royal trees; no concession to the divine right
of kings to do evil. John was a prophet in the spirit and power of
Elijah; he dwelt in the desert, he despised the power and splendor
of courts, and appeared before kings as God's messenger, to declare
his will and pronounce sentence of wrath on the disobedient. So
without scruple he denounced the adulterous connection of his royal
hearer, and demanded that Herod should put away the guilty woman as
the only condition of salvation. Herod replied, as kings have been
in the habit of replying to such inconvenient personal application
of God's laws: he shut John up in prison. It is said in St. Mark
that Herodias had a quarrel against him, and would have killed him,
but she could not. The intensity of a woman's hatred looks out
through this chink of the story as the secret exciting power to the
man's slower passions. She would have had him killed had she been
able to have her way; she can only compass his imprisonment for the
present, and she trusts to female importunities and blandishments to
finish the vengeance. The hour of opportunity comes. We are told in
the record: "And when a convenient day came, Herod on his birthday
made a supper to his lords and high captains and chief estates of

One of the entertainments of the evening was the wonderful dancing
of Salome, the daughter of his paramour. We have heard in the annals
of the modern theatre into what inconsiderate transports of rapture
crowned heads and chief captains and mighty men of valor have been
thrown by the dancing of some enthroned queen of the ballet; and one
does not feel it incredible, therefore, that Herod, who appeared to
be nervously susceptible to all kinds of influences, said to the
enchantress, "Ask me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee;
and he sware unto her after the pattern of Ahasuerus to Esther,
saying, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me I will give it thee, to the
half of my kingdom." And now the royal tigress, who has arranged
this snare and watched the king's entrance into the toils, prepares
to draw the noose. Salome goes to her mother and says, "What shall I
ask?" The answer is ready. Herodias said, with perfect explicitness,
"Ask for the head of John the Baptist." So the graceful creature
trips back into the glittering court circle, and, bowing her
flower-like head, says in the sweetest tones, "Give me here John the
Baptist's head in a charger."

The narrative says very artlessly, "And the king was sorry, but
for his oath's sake, and for the sake of them that sat with him at
meat, he would not refuse her, and immediately the king sent an
executioner and commanded his head to be brought, and he went and
beheaded him in prison!"

What wonderful contrasted types of womanhood the Gospel history
gives! We see such august and noble forms as Elisabeth, the mother
of the Baptist, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, alongside of this
haughty royal adulteress and her beautiful daughter. The good were
the lower, and the bad the higher class of that day. Vice was
enthroned and triumphant, while virtue walked obscure by hedges and
byways; a dancing girl had power to take away the noblest life in
Judæa, next to that which was afterward taken on Calvary.

No throb of remorse that we know of ever visited these women, but of
Herod we are told that when afterwards he heard of the preaching and
mighty works of Jesus, he said, "It is John the Baptist that I slew.
He is risen from the dead, therefore mighty works do show forth
themselves in him."

In the last scenes of our Lord's life we meet again this credulous,
superstitious, bad man. Pilate, embarrassed by a prisoner who
alarmed his fears and whom he was troubled to dispose of, sent Jesus
to Herod. Thus we see the licentious tool and slave of a bad woman
has successively before his judgment-seat the two greatest men of
his age and of all ages. It is said Herod received Jesus gladly,
for he had a long time been desirous to see him, for he hoped some
miracle would be done by him. But he was precisely of the class of
whom our Lord spoke when he said, "An adulterous generation seeketh
a sign, and there shall no sign be given them." God has no answer to
give to wicked, unrepentant curiosity, and though Herod questioned
Jesus in many words he answered him nothing. Then we are told,
"Herod with his men of war set Jesus at naught, and mocked him, and
arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to Pilate." And
this was how the great ones of the earth received their Lord.

[Illustration: THE WOMAN OF SAMARIA]


We are struck, in the history of our Lord, with the _unworldliness_
of his manner of living his daily life and fulfilling his great
commission. It is emphatically true, in the history of Jesus, that
his ways are not as our ways, and his thoughts as our thoughts.
He did not choose the disciples of his first ministry as worldly
wisdom would have chosen them. Though men of good and honest hearts,
they were neither the most cultured nor the most influential of his
nation. We should have said that men of the standing of Joseph of
Arimathea or Nicodemus were preferable, other things being equal, to
Peter the fisherman or Matthew the tax-gatherer; but Jesus thought

And furthermore, he sometimes selected those apparently most
unlikely to further his ends. Thus, when he had a mission of mercy
in view for Samaria, he called to the work a woman; not such as we
should suppose a divine teacher would choose,--not a pre-eminently
intellectual or a very good woman,--but, on the contrary, one of
a careless life and loose morals and little culture. The history
of this person, of the way in which he sought her acquaintance,
arrested her attention, gained access to her heart, and made of
her a missionary to draw the attention of her people to him, is
wonderfully given by St. John. We have the image of a woman--such
as many are, social, good-humored, talkative, and utterly without
any high moral sense--approaching the well, where she sees this
weary Jew reclining to rest himself. He introduces himself to her
acquaintance by asking a favor,--the readiest way to open the heart
of a woman of that class. She is evidently surprised that he will
speak to her, being a Jew, and she a daughter of a despised and
hated race. "How is it," she says, "that thou, a Jew, askest drink
of me, a woman of Samaria?" Jesus now answers her in that symbolic
and poetic strain which was familiar with him: "If thou knewest
the gift of God, and who this is that asketh drink of thee, thou
wouldst ask of him, and he would give thee living water." The woman
sees in this only the occasion for a lively rejoinder. "Sir, thou
hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; from whence then
hast thou that living water?" With that same mysterious air, as if
speaking unconsciously from out some higher sphere, he answers,
"Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever
shall drink of the water that I shall give, shall never thirst.
The water that I shall give shall be a well in him springing up to
everlasting life."

Impressed strangely by the words of the mysterious stranger, she
answers confusedly, "Sir, give me this water, that I thirst not,
neither come hither to draw." There is a feeble attempt at a jest
struggling with the awe which is growing upon her. Jesus now touches
the vital spot in her life. "Go, call thy husband and come hither."
She said, "I have no husband." He answers, "Well hast thou said I
have no husband; thou hast had five husbands, and he thou now hast
is not thy husband; in that saidst thou truly."

The stern, grave chastity of the Jew, his reverence for marriage,
strike coldly on the light-minded woman accustomed to the easy
tolerance of a low state of society. She is abashed, and hastily
seeks to change the subject: "Sir, I see thou art a prophet"; and
then she introduces the controverted point of the two liturgies and
temples of Samaria and Jerusalem,--not the first nor the last was
she of those who seek relief from conscience by discussing doctrinal
dogmas. Then, to our astonishment, Jesus proceeds to declare to
this woman of light mind and loose morality the sublime doctrines
of spiritual worship, to predict the new era which is dawning on
the world: "Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when neither in this
mountain nor yet in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father. The hour
cometh and now is when the true worshiper shall worship the Father
in spirit and in truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship
him. God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him
in spirit and in truth." Then, in a sort of confused awe at his
earnestness, the woman says, "I know that Messiah shall come, and
when he is come he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I
that speak unto thee am he."

At this moment the disciples returned. With their national
prejudices, it was very astonishing, as they drew nigh, to see that
their master was in close and earnest conversation with a Samaritan
woman. Nevertheless, when the higher and godlike in Jesus was in
a state of incandescence, the light and fire were such as to awe
them. They saw that he was in an exalted mood, which they dared not
question. All the infinite love of the Saviour, the shepherd of
souls, was awaking within him; the soul whom he has inspired with a
new and holy calling is leaving him on a mission that is to bring
crowds to his love. The disciples pray him to eat, but he is no
longer hungry, no longer thirsty, no longer weary; he exults in the
gifts that he is ready to give, and the hearts that are opening to

The disciples pray him, "Master, eat." He said, "I have meat to eat
that ye know not of." They question in an undertone, "Hath any one
brought him aught to eat?" He answers, "My meat and my drink is to
do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work." Then,
pointing towards the city, he speaks impassioned words of a harvest
which is at hand; and they wonder.

But meanwhile the woman, with the eagerness and bright, social
readiness which characterize her, is calling to her townsmen, "Come,
see a man that told me all that ever I did. Is not this the Christ?"

What followed on this? A crowd press out to see the wonder. Jesus
is invited as an honored guest; he spends two days in the city, and
gathers a band of disciples.

After the resurrection of Jesus, we find further fruits of the
harvest sown by a chance interview of Jesus with this woman. In the
eighth of Acts we read of the ingathering of a church in a city of
Samaria, where it is said that "the people, with one accord, gave
heed to the things spoken by Philip, and there was great joy in that

One thing in this story impresses us strongly,--the power which
Jesus had to touch the divinest capabilities in the unlikeliest
subjects. He struck at once and directly for what was highest and
noblest in souls where it lay most hidden. As physician of souls he
appealed directly to the vital moral force, and it acted under his
touch. He saw the higher nature in this woman, and as one might draw
a magnet over a heap of rubbish and bring out pure metal, so he from
this careless, light-minded, good-natured, unprincipled creature,
brought out the suppressed and hidden yearning for a better and
higher life. She had no prejudices to keep, no station to preserve;
she was even to her own low moral sense consciously a sinner, and
she was ready at the kind and powerful appeal to leave all and
follow him.

We have no further history of her. She is living now somewhere; but
wherever she may be, we may be quite sure she never has forgotten
the conversation at the well in Samaria, and the man who "told her
all that ever she did."

[Illustration: MARY MAGDALENE]


One of the most splendid ornaments of the Dresden Gallery is the
Magdalen of Batoni. The subject has been a favorite among artists,
and one sees, in a tour of the various collections of Europe,
Magdalens by every painter, in every conceivable style. By far the
greater part of them deal only with the material aspects of the
subject. The exquisite pathos of the story, the passionate anguish
and despair of the penitent, the refinement and dignity of Divine
tenderness, are often lost sight of in mere physical accessories.
Many artists seem to have seen in the subject only a chance to
paint a voluptuously beautiful woman in tears. Titian appears
to have felt in this wonderful story nothing but the beauty of
the woman's _hair_, and gives us a picture of the most glorious
tresses that heart could conceive, perfectly veiling and clothing a
very common-place weeping woman. Correggio made of the study only
a charming effect of light and shade and color. A fat, pretty,
comfortable little body lying on the ground reading, is about the
whole that he sees in the subject.

Batoni, on the contrary, seems, by some strange inspiration, to set
before us one of the highest, noblest class of women,--a creature
so calm, so high, so pure, that we ask involuntarily, How could
such a woman ever have fallen? The answer is ready. There is a
class of women who fall through what is highest in them, through
the noblest capability of a human being,--utter self-sacrificing
love. True, we cannot flatter ourselves that these instances are
universal, but they do exist. Many women fall through the weakness
of self-indulgent passion, many from love of luxury, many from
vanity and pride, too many from the mere coercion of hard necessity;
but among the sad, unblest crowd there is a class who are the
victims of sovereign power to forgive sins and dispense favors.
The repentant Magdalene became henceforth one of the characteristic
figures in the history of the Christian Church. Mary Magdalene
became eventually a prominent figure in the mythic legends of
the mediæval mythology. A long history of missionary labors and
enthusiastic preaching of the gospel in distant regions of the earth
is ascribed to her. Churches arose that bore her name, hymns were
addressed to her. Even the reforming Savonarola addresses one of
his spiritual canticles to St. Mary Magdalene. The various pictures
of her which occur in every part of Europe are a proof of the
interest which these legends inspired. The most of them are wild and
poetic, and exhibit a striking contrast to the concise brevity and
simplicity of the New Testament story.

The mythic legends make up a romance in which Mary the sister of
Martha and Mary Magdalene the sinner are oddly considered as the
same person. It is sufficient to read the chapter in St. John which
gives an account of the raising of Lazarus, to perceive that such a
confusion is absurd. Mary and Martha there appear as belonging to
a family in good standing, to which many flocked with expressions
of condolence and respect in time of affliction. And afterwards,
in that grateful feast made for the restoration of their brother,
we read that so many flocked to the house that the jealousy of
the chief priests was excited. All these incidents, representing
a family of respectability, are entirely inconsistent with any
such supposition. But while we repudiate this extravagance of
the tradition, there does seem ground for identifying the Mary
Magdalene, who was one of the most devoted followers of our Lord,
with the forgiven sinner of this narrative. We read of a company
of women who followed Jesus and ministered to him. In the eighth
chapter of Luke he is said to be accompanied by "certain women
which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities," among whom
is mentioned "Mary called Magdalene," as having been a victim of
demoniacal possession. Some women of rank and fortune also are
mentioned as members of the same company: "Joanna the wife of Chusa,
Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered to him
of their substance." A modern commentator thinks it improbable that
Mary Magdalene could be identified with the "sinner" spoken of by
St. Luke, because women of standing like Joanna and Susanna would
not have received one of her class to their company. We ask why
not? If Jesus had received her, had forgiven and saved her; if _he_
acknowledged previously her grateful ministrations,--is it likely
that they would reject her? It was the very peculiarity and glory
of the new kingdom that it had a better future for sinners, and for
sinful woman as well as sinful man. Jesus did not hesitate to say
to the proud and prejudiced religious aristocracy of his day, "The
publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you." We
cannot doubt that the loving Christian women who ministered to Jesus
received this penitent sister as a soul absolved and purified by the
sovereign word of their Lord, and henceforth there was for her a
full scope for that ardent, self-devoting power of her nature which
had been her ruin, and was now to become her salvation.

Some commentators seem to think that the dreadful demoniacal
possession which was spoken of in Mary Magdalene proves her not to
have been identical with the woman of St. Luke. But on the contrary,
it would seem exactly to account for actions of a strange and
unaccountable wickedness, for a notoriety in crime that went far to
lead the Pharisees to feel that her very touch was pollution. The
story is symbolic of what is too often seen in the fall of woman. A
noble and beautiful nature wrecked through inconsiderate prodigality
of love, deceived, betrayed, ruined, often drifts like a shipwrecked
bark into the power of evil spirits. Rage, despair, revenge,
cruelty, take possession of the crushed ruin that should have been
the home of the sweetest affections. We are not told when or where
the healing word was spoken that drove the cruel fiends from Mary's
soul. Perhaps before she entered the halls of the Pharisee, while
listening to the preaching of Jesus, the madness and despair had
left her. We can believe that in his higher moods virtue went from
him, and there was around him a holy and cleansing atmosphere from
which all evil fled away,--a serene and healing purity which calmed
the throbbing fever of passion and gave the soul once more the image
of its better self.

We see in the manner in which Mary found her way to the feet of
Jesus the directness and vehemence, the uncalculating self-sacrifice
and self-abandon, of one of those natures which, when they move,
move with a rush of undivided impulse; which, when they love, trust
all, believe all, and are ready to sacrifice all. As once she had
lost herself in this self-abandonment, so now at the feet of her God
she gains all by the same power of self-surrender.

We do not meet Mary Magdalene again till we find her at the foot
of the cross, sharing the last anguish of our Lord and his mother.
We find her watching the sepulcher, preparing sweet spices for
embalming. In the dim gray of the resurrection morning she is there
again, only to find the sepulcher open and the beloved form gone.
Everything in this last scene is in consistency with the idea of
the passionate self-devotion of a nature whose sole life is in its
love. The disciples, when they found not the body, went away; but
Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping, and as she wept she
stooped down and looked into the sepulcher. The angels said to her,
"Woman, why weepest thou? She answered, Because they have taken away
my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." She then turns
and sees through her tears dimly the form of a man standing there.
"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?
She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou
have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will
go and take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary! She turned herself
and said unto him, Rabboni,--Master!"

In all this we see the characteristic devotion and energy of her who
loved much because she was forgiven much. It was the peculiarity
of Jesus that he saw the precious capability of every nature, even
in the very dust of defilement. The power of devoted love is the
crown-jewel of the soul, and Jesus had the eye to see where it
lay trampled in the mire, and the strong hand to bring it forth
purified and brightened. It is the deepest malignity of Satan to
degrade and ruin souls through love. It is the glory of Christ,
through love, to redeem and restore.

In the history of Christ as a teacher, it is remarkable, that, while
he was an object of enthusiastic devotion to so many women, while
a band of them followed his preaching and ministered to his wants
and those of his disciples, yet there was about him something so
entirely unworldly, so sacredly high and pure, that even the very
suggestion of scandal in this regard is not to be found in the
bitterest vituperations of his enemies of the first two centuries.

If we compare Jesus with Socrates, the moral teacher most frequently
spoken of as approaching him, we shall see a wonderful contrast.
Socrates associated with courtesans, without passion and without
reproof, in a spirit of half-sarcastic, philosophic tolerance. No
quickening of the soul of woman, no call to a higher life, came from
him. Jesus is stern and grave in his teachings of personal purity,
severe in his requirements. He was as intolerant to sin as he was
merciful to penitence. He did not extenuate the sins he forgave.
He declared the sins of Mary to be _many_, in the same breath that
he pronounced her pardon. He said to the adulterous woman whom he
protected, "Go, sin no more." The penitents who joined the company
of his disciples were so raised above their former selves, that,
instead of being the shame, they were the glory of the new kingdom.
St. Paul says to the first Christians, speaking of the adulterous
and impure, "Such were some of you, but ye are washed, but ye are
sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and
by the Spirit of God."

The tradition of the Church that Mary Magdalene was an enthusiastic
preacher of Jesus seems in keeping with all we know of the strength
and fervor of her character. Such love must find expression, and
we are told that when the first persecution scattered the little
church at Jerusalem, "they that were scattered went everywhere,
preaching the word." Some of the most effective preaching of
Christ is that of those who testify in their own person of a great
salvation. "He can save to the uttermost, for he has saved ME," is
a testimony that often goes more straight to the heart than all the
arguments of learning. Christianity had this peculiarity over all
other systems, that it not only forgave the past, but made of its
bitter experiences a healing medicine; so that those who had sinned
deepest might have therefrom a greater redeeming power. "When thou
art converted, strengthen thy brethren," was the watchword of the

The wonderful mind of Goethe has seized upon and embodied this
peculiarity of Christianity in his great poem of Faust. The first
part shows the Devil making of the sweetest and noblest affection of
the confiding Margaret a cruel poison to corrupt both body and soul.
We see her driven to crime, remorse, shame, despair,--all human
forms and forces of society united to condemn her, when with a last
cry she stretches her poor hands to heaven and says, "Judgment of
God, I commend myself to you"; and then falls a voice from heaven,
"She is judged; she is saved."

In the second part we see the world-worn, weary Faust passing
through the classic mythology, vainly seeking rest and finding
none; he seeks rest in a life of benevolence to man, but fiends
of darkness conflict with his best aspirations, and dog his steps
through life, and in his dying hour gather round to seize his soul
and carry it to perdition. But around him is a shining band. Mary
the mother of Jesus, with a company of purified penitents, encircle
him, and his soul passes, in infantine weakness, to the guardian
arms of Margaret,--once a lost and ruined woman, now a strong and
pitiful angel,--who, like a tender mother, leads the new-born soul
to look upon the glories of heaven, while angel-voices sing of the
victory of good over evil:--

    "All that is transient
    Is but a parable;
    The unattainable
    Here is made real.
    The indescribable
    Here is accomplished;
    The eternal womanly
    Draws us upward and onward."

[Illustration: MARTHA AND MARY]


The dramatic power of the brief Bible narratives is one of their
most wonderful characteristics. By a few incidents, a word here and
there, they create a vivid image of a personality that afterwards
never dies from our memory. The women of Shakespeare have been set
upon the stage with all the accessories of dress, scenery, and the
interpreting power of fine acting, and yet the vividness of their
personality has not been equal to that of the women of the Bible.

Mary and Martha, the two sisters of Bethany, have had for ages a
name and a living power in the Church. Thousands of hearts have
throbbed with theirs; thousands have wept sympathetic tears in their
sorrows and rejoiced in their joy. By a few simple touches in the
narrative they are so delicately and justly discriminated that they
stand for the representatives of two distinct classes. Some of the
ancient Christian writers considered them as types of the active
and the contemplative aspects of religion. Martha is viewed as
the secular Christian, serving God in and through the channels of
worldly business, and Mary as the more peculiarly religious person,
devoted to a life of holy meditation and the researches of heavenly
truth. The two were equally the friends of Jesus. Apparently, the
two sisters with one brother were an orphan family, united by the
strongest mutual affection, and affording a circle peculiarly
congenial to the Master.

They inhabited a rural home just outside of Jerusalem; and it seems
that here, after the labors of a day spent in teaching in the
city, our Lord found at evening a home-like retreat where he could
enjoy perfect quiet and perfect love. It would seem, from many
touches in the Gospel narrative, as if Jesus, amid the labors and
applauses and successes of a public life, yearned for privacy and
domesticity,--for that home love which he persistently renounced, to
give himself wholly to mankind. There is a shade of pathos in his
answer to one who proposed to be his disciple and dwell with him:
"Foxes have holes; the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of
Man hath not where to lay his head." This little orphan circle, with
their quiet home, were thus especially dear to him, and it appears
that this was his refuge during that last week of his life, when he
knew that every day was bringing him nearer to the final anguish.

It is wonderful how sharply and truly, in a narrative so brief,
the characters of Martha and Mary are individualized. Martha, in
her Judæan dress and surroundings, is, after all, exactly such a
good woman as is often seen in our modern life,--a woman primarily
endowed with the faculties necessary for getting on in the
world, yet sincerely religious. She is energetic, business-like,
matter-of-fact, strictly orthodox, and always ready for every
emergency. She lives in the present life strongly and intensely, and
her religion exhibits itself through regular forms and agencies.
She believes in the future life orthodoxly, and is always prompt
to confess its superior importance as a matter of doctrine, though
prone to make material things the first in practice. Many such
women there are in the high places of the Christian Church, and
much good they do. They manage fairs, they dress churches, they
get up religious festivals, their names are on committees, they
are known at celebrations. They rule their own homes with activity
and diligence, and they are justly honored by all who know them.
Now, nothing is more remarkable in the history of Jesus than the
catholicity of his appreciation of character. He never found fault
with natural organization, or expected all people to be of one
pattern. He did not break with Thomas for being naturally a cautious
doubter, or Peter for being a precipitate believer; and it is
specially recorded in the history of this family that Jesus loved
Martha. He understood her, he appreciated her worth, and he loved

In Mary we see the type of those deeper and more sensitive natures
who ever aspire above and beyond the material and temporal to the
eternal and divine; souls that are seeking and inquiring with a
restlessness that no earthly thing can satisfy, who can find no
peace until they find it in union with God.

In St. Luke we have a record of the manner in which the first
acquaintance with this family was formed. This historian says:
"A woman named Martha received him at her house." Evidently the
decisive and salient power of her nature caused her to be regarded
as mistress of the family. There was a grown-up brother in the
family; but this house is not called the house of Lazarus, but the
house of Martha,--a form of speaking the more remarkable from the
great superiority or leadership which ancient customs awarded to the
male sex. But Martha was one of those natural leaders whom everybody
instinctively thinks of as the head of any house they may happen to
belong to. Her tone toward Mary is authoritative. The Mary-nature
is a nature apt to appear to disadvantage in physical things. It
is often puzzled, and unskilled, and unready in the details and
emergencies of a life like ours, which so little meets its deepest
feelings and most importunate wants. It acquires skill in earthly
things only as a matter of discipline and conscience, but is always
yearning above them to something higher and divine. A delicacy
of moral nature suggests to such a person a thousand scruples
of conscientious inquiry in every turn of life, which embarrass
directness of action. To the Martha-nature, practical, direct, and
prosaic, all these doubts, scruples, hesitations, and unreadinesses
appear only as pitiable weaknesses.

Again, Martha's nature attaches a vast importance to many things
which, in the view of Mary, are so fleeting and perishable, and have
so little to do with the deeper immortal wants of the soul, that it
is difficult for her even to remember and keep them in sight. The
requirements of etiquette, the changes and details of fashion, the
thousand particulars which pertain to keeping up a certain footing
in society and a certain position in the world,--all these Martha
has at her fingers' ends. They are the breath of her nostrils, while
Mary is always forgetting, overlooking, and transgressing them.
Many a Mary has escaped into a convent, or joined a sisterhood, or
worn the plain dress of the Quaker, in order that she might escape
from the exaction of the Marthas of her day, "careful [or, more
literally, _full of care_] and troubled about many things."

It appears that in her way Martha was a religious woman, a sincere
member of the Jewish Church, and an intense believer. The preaching
of Christ was the great religious phenomenon of the times, and
Martha, Mary, and Lazarus joined the crowd who witnessed his
miracles and listened to his words. Both women accepted his message
and believed his Messiahship,--Martha, from the witness of his
splendid miracles; Mary, from the deep accord of her heart with
the wonderful words he had uttered. To Martha he was the King that
should reign in splendor at Jerusalem, and raise their nation to an
untold height of glory; to Mary he was the answer to the eternal
question,--the Way, the Truth, the Life, for which she had been
always longing.

Among many who urge and press hospitality, Martha's invitation
prevails. A proud home is that, when Jesus follows her,--her prize,
her captive. The woman in our day who has captured in her net of
hospitalities the orator, the poet, the warrior,--the star of all
eyes, the central point of all curiosity, desire, and regard,--can
best appreciate Martha's joy. She will make an entertainment
that will do credit to the occasion. She revolves prodigies of
hospitality. She invites guests to whom her acquisition shall
be duly exhibited, and all is hurry, bustle, and commotion. But
Mary follows him, silent, with a fluttering heart. His teaching
has aroused the divine longing, the immortal pain, to a throbbing
intensity; a sweet presentiment fills her soul, that she is near One
through whom the way into the Holiest is open, and now is the hour.
She neither hears nor sees the bustle of preparation; but apart,
where the Master has seated himself, she sits down at his feet, and
her eyes, more than her voice, address to him that question and
that prayer which are _the_ question and the _one great reality_ of
all this fleeting, mortal life.

The question is answered; the prayer is granted. At his feet she
becomes spiritually clairvoyant. The way to God becomes clear and
open. Her soul springs toward the light; is embraced by the peace of
God, that passeth understanding. It is a soul-crisis, and the Master
sees that in that hour his breath has unfolded into blossom buds
that had been struggling in darkness. Mary has received in her bosom
the "white stone with the new name, which no man knoweth save him
that receiveth it," and of which Jesus only is the giver. As Master
and disciple sit in that calm and sweet accord, in which giver and
receiver are alike blessed, suddenly Martha appears and breaks into
the interview, in a characteristically imperative sentence: "Lord,
dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid
her, therefore, that she help me."

Nothing could more energetically indicate Martha's character than
this sentence. It shows her blunt sincerity, her conscientious,
matter-of-fact worldliness, and her dictatorial positiveness.
Evidently, here is a person accustomed to having her own way and
bearing down all about her; a person who believes in herself without
a doubt, and is so positive that her way is the only right one that
she cannot but be amazed that the Master has not at once seen as
she does. To be sure, this is in her view the Christ, the Son of
God, the King of Israel, the human being whom in her deepest heart
she reverences; but no matter, she is so positive that she is right
that she does not hesitate to say her say, and make her complaint
of him as well as of her sister. People like Martha often arraign
and question the very Providence of God itself when it stands in
the way of their own plans. Martha is sure of her ground. Here is
the Messiah, the King of Israel, at her house, and she is getting
up an entertainment worthy of him, slaving herself to death for
him, and he takes no notice, and most inconsiderately allows her
dreamy sister to sit listening to him, instead of joining in the

The reply of Jesus went, as his replies were wont to do, to the very
root-fault of Martha's life, the fault of all such natures: "Martha,
Martha! thou art careful and troubled about many things, but _one_
thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall
not be taken from her." The Master's words evidently recognize
that in that critical hour Mary had passed a boundary in her soul
history, and made an attainment of priceless value. She had gained
something that could never be taken from her; and she had gained it
by that single-hearted devotion to spiritual things which made her
prompt to know and seize the hour of opportunity.

The brief narrative there intermits; we are not told how Martha
replied, or what are the results of this plain, tender faithfulness
of reproof. The Saviour, be it observed, did not blame Martha for
her nature. He did not blame her for not being Mary; but he did
blame her for not restraining and governing her own nature and
keeping it in due subjection to higher considerations. A being
of brighter worlds, he stood looking on Martha's life,--on her
activities and bustle and care; and to him how sorrowfully worthless
the greater part of them appeared! To him they were mere toys and
playthings, such as a child is allowed to play with in the earlier,
undeveloped hours of existence; not to be harshly condemned, but
still utterly fleeting and worthless in the face of the tremendous
eternal realities, the glories and the dangers of the eternal state.

It must be said here that all we know of our Lord leads us to
feel that he was not encouraging and defending in Mary a selfish,
sentimental indulgence in her own cherished emotions and affections,
leaving the burden of necessary care on a sister who would have been
equally glad to sit at Jesus's feet. That was not his reading of
the situation. It was that Martha, engrossed in a thousand cares,
burdened herself with a weight of perplexities of which there was no
need, and found no time and had no heart to come to him and speak of
the _only_, the _one_ thing that endures beyond the present world.
To how many hearts does this reproof apply? How many who call
themselves Christians are weary, wasted, worn, drained of life,
injured in health, fretted in temper, by a class of anxieties so
purely worldly that they can never bring them to Jesus, or if they
do, would meet first and foremost his tender reproof, "Thou art
careful and troubled about many things; there is but _one_ thing
really needful. Seek that good part which shall never be taken away."

What fruit this rebuke bore will appear as we further pursue the
history of the sister. The subsequent story shows that Martha was
a brave, sincere, good woman, capable of yielding to reproof and
acknowledging a fault. There is precious material in such, if only
their powers be turned to the highest and best things.

It is an interesting thought that the human affection of Jesus for
one family has been made the means of leaving on record the most
consoling experience for the sorrows of bereavement that sacred
literature affords. Viewed merely on the natural side, the intensity
of human affections and the frightful possibilities of suffering
involved in their very sweetness present a fearful prospect when
compared with that stony inflexibility of natural law, which goes
forth crushing, bruising, lacerating, without the least apparent
feeling for human agony.

The God of nature appears silent, unalterable, unsympathetic,
pursuing general good without a throb of pity for individual
suffering; and that suffering is so unspeakable, so terrible! Close
shadowing every bridal, every cradle, is this awful possibility
of death that may come at any moment, unannounced and inevitable.
The joy of this hour may become the bitterness of the next; the
ring, the curl of hair, the locket, the picture, that to-day are a
treasure of hope and happiness, to-morrow may be only weapons of
bitterness that stab at every view. The silent inflexibility of God
in upholding laws that work out such terrible agonies and suffering
is something against which the human heart moans and chafes
through all ancient literature. "The gods envy the happy," was the
construction put upon the problem of life as the old sages viewed

But in this second scene of the story of the sisters of Bethany
we have that view of God which is the only one powerful enough to
soothe and control the despair of the stricken heart. It says to us
that behind this seeming inflexibility, this mighty and most needful
upholding of law, is a throbbing, sympathizing heart,--bearing with
us the sorrow of this struggling period of existence, and pointing
to a perfect fulfillment in the future.

The story opens most remarkably. In the absence of the Master, the
brother is stricken down with deadly disease. Forthwith a hasty
messenger is dispatched to Jesus. "Lord, he whom thou lovest is
sick." Here is no prayer expressed; but human language could not be
more full of all the elements of the best kind of prayer. It is the
prayer of perfect trust,--the prayer of love that has no shadow of
doubt. If only we let Jesus know we are in trouble, we are helped.
We need not ask, we need only say, "He whom thou lovest is sick,"
and he will understand, and the work will be done. We are safe with

Then comes the seeming contradiction--the trial of faith--that
gives this story such a value: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her
sister and Lazarus. When, _therefore_, he heard that he was sick,
he abode two days in the same place where he was." Because he loved
them, he delayed; because he loved them, he resisted that most
touching appeal that heart can make,--the appeal of utter trust. We
can imagine the wonder, the anguish, the conflict of spirit, when
death at last shut the door in the face of their prayers. Had God
forgotten to be gracious? Had he in anger shut up his tender mercy?
Did not Jesus love them? Had he not power to heal? Why then had he
suffered this? Ah! this is exactly the strait in which thousands of
Christ's own beloved ones must stand in the future; and Mary and
Martha, unconsciously to themselves, were suffering with Christ in
the great work of human consolation. Their distress and anguish and
sorrow were necessary to work out a great experience of God's love,
where multitudes of anguished hearts have laid themselves down as on
a pillow of repose, and have been comforted.

Something--of this is shadowed in the Master's words: "This sickness
is not unto death, but for the glory of God,--that the Son of God
might be glorified thereby." What was that glory of God? Not most
his natural power, but his sympathetic tenderness, his loving heart.
What is the glory of the Son of God? Not the mere display of power,
but power used to console, in manifesting to the world that this
cruel _death_--the shadow that haunts all human life, that appalls
and terrifies, that scatters anguish and despair--is _not_ death,
but the gateway of a brighter life, in which Jesus shall restore
love to love, in eternal reunion.

In the scene with the sisters before the Saviour arrives, we are
struck with the consideration in which the family is held. This
house is thronged with sympathizing friends, and, as appears from
some incidents afterwards, friends among the higher classes of the
nation. Martha hears of the approach of Jesus, and goes forth to
meet him.

In all the scene which follows we are impressed with the dignity
and worth of Martha's character. We see in the scene of sorrow that
Martha has been the strong, practical woman, on whom all rely in
the hour of sickness, and whose energy is equal to any emergency.
We see her unsubdued by emotion, ready to go forth to receive
Jesus, and prompt to meet the issues of the moment. We see, too,
that the appreciation of the worth of her character, which had led
him to admonish her against the materialistic tendencies of such
a nature, was justified by the fruits of that rebuke. Martha had
grown more spiritual by intercourse with the Master, and as she
falls at Jesus's feet, the half-complaint which her sorrow wrings
from her is here merged in the expression of her faith: "Lord,
if thou hadst been here my brother had not died; but I know that
even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it to
thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again." Like
every well-trained religious Jew of her day, Martha was versed in
the doctrine of the general resurrection. That this belief was
a more actively operating motive with the ancient Jewish than
with the modern Christian Church of our day, is attested by the
affecting history of the martyrdom of the mother and her seven sons
in the Book of Maccabees. Martha therefore makes prompt answer,
"I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last
day." Jesus answered her in words which no mere mortal could
have uttered,--words of a divine fullness of meaning,--"I am the
Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in me, though dead,
shall live, and whosoever believeth in me is immortal."

In these words he claims to be the great source of Life,--the
absolute Lord and Controller of all that relates to life, death, and
eternity; and he makes the appeal to Martha's faith: "Believest thou
this?" "Yea, Lord," she responds, "I believe thou art the Christ of
God that should come into the world." And then she runs and calls
her sister secretly, saying, "The Master is come and calleth for
thee." As a majestic symphony modulates into a tender and pathetic
minor passage, so the tone of the narrative here changes to the most
exquisite pathos. Mary, attended by her weeping friends, comes and
falls at Jesus's feet, and sobs out: "Lord, if thou hadst been here
my brother had not died!"

It indicates the delicate sense of character which ever marked
the intercourse of our Lord, that to this helpless, heart-broken
child prostrate at his feet he addresses no appeal to reason or
faith. He felt within himself the overwhelming power of that tide
of emotion which for the time bore down both reason and faith in
helpless anguish. With such sorrow there was no arguing, and Jesus
did not attempt argument; for the story goes on: "When Jesus saw her
weeping, and the Jews also weeping that came with her, he groaned in
spirit and was troubled; and he said, Where have ye laid him? And
they said, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept." Those tears interpreted
for all time God's silence and apparent indifference to human
suffering; and wherever Christ is worshiped as the brightness of
the Father's glory and the express image of his person, they bear
witness that the God who upholds the laws that wound and divide
human affections still feels with us the sorrow which he permits.
"In all our afflictions he is afflicted."

And now came the sublime and solemn scene when he who had claimed to
be Resurrection and Life made good his claim. Standing by the grave
he called, as he shall one day call to all the dead: "Lazarus, come
forth!" And here the curtain drops over the scene of restoration.

We do not see this family circle again till just before the final
scene of the great tragedy of Christ's life. The hour was at hand,
of suffering, betrayal, rejection, denial, shame, agony, and death;
and with the shadow of this awful cloud over his mind, Jesus comes
for the last time to Jerusalem. To the eye of the thoughtless,
Jesus was never so popular, so beloved, as at the moment when he
entered the last week of his life at Jerusalem. Palm branches and
flowers strewed his way, hosannas greeted him on every side, and
the chief-priests and scribes said, "Perceive ye how ye prevail
nothing? Behold the world is gone after him!" But the mind of Jesus
was wrapped in that awful shade of the events that were so soon to

He passes out, after his first day in Jerusalem, to Bethany, and
takes refuge in this dear circle. There they make him a feast,
and Martha served, but Lazarus, as a restored treasure, sits at
the table. Then took Mary a pound of ointment, very precious, and
anointed the head of Jesus, and anointed his feet with the ointment,
and wiped them with her hair.

There is something in the action that marks the poetic and sensitive
nature of Mary. Her heart was overburdened with gratitude and love.
She longed to give something, and how little was there that she
could give! She buys the most rare, the most costly of perfumes,
breaks the vase, and sheds it upon his head. Could she have put
her whole life, her whole existence, into that fleeting perfume
and poured it out for him, she gladly would have done it. That was
what the action said, and what Jesus understood. Forthwith comes
the criticism of Judas: "What a waste! It were better to give the
money to the poor than to expend it in mere sentimentalism." Jesus
defended her with all the warmth of his nature, in words tinged with
the presentiment of his approaching doom: "Let her alone; she is
come aforehand to anoint my body for the burial." Then, as if deeply
touched with the reality of that love which thus devoted itself to
him, he adds, "Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout
the world, there shall what this woman hath done be had in
remembrance." The value set upon pure love, upon that unconsidering
devotion which gives its best and utmost freely and wholly, is
expressed in these words. A loving God seeks love; and he who thus
spoke is he who afterward, when he appeared in glory, declared his
abhorrence of lukewarmness in his followers: "I would thou wert cold
or hot; because thou art lukewarm I will spew thee out of my mouth."
It is significant of the change which had passed upon Martha that no
criticism of Mary's action in this case came from her. There might
have been a time when this inconsiderate devotion of a poetic nature
would have annoyed her and called out remonstrance. In her silence
we feel a sympathetic acquiescence.

After this scene we meet the family no more. Doubtless the
three were among the early watchers upon the resurrection
morning;--doubtless they were of the number among whom Jesus stood
after the resurrection, saying, "Peace be unto you";--doubtless they
were of those who went out with him to the Mount of Olives when he
was taken up into heaven; and doubtless they are now with him in
glory: for it is an affecting thought that no human personality is
ever lost or to be lost. In the future ages it may be our happiness
to see and know those whose history has touched our hearts so deeply.

One lesson from this history we pray may be taken into every
mourning heart. The Apostle says that Jesus upholds all things by
the word of his power. The laws by which accident, sickness, loss,
and death are constantly bringing despair and sorrow to sensitive
hearts, are upheld by that same Jesus who wept at the grave of
Lazarus, and who is declared to be Jesus Christ, the same yesterday
and forever. When we see the exceeding preciousness of human love
in his eyes, and realize his sympathetic nature, and then remember
that he is RESURRECTION AND LIFE, can we not trust him with our
best beloved, and look to him for that hour of reunion which he has

The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is a precious
concession to human weakness and human love. How dear the outward
form of our child,--how distressing to think we shall never see it
again! But Christ promises we shall. Here is a mystery. St. Paul
says, that as the seed buried in the earth is to the new plant or
flower, so is our present mortal body to the new immortal one that
shall spring from it. It shall be our friend, our child, familiar to
us with all that mysterious charm of personal identity, yet clothed
with the life and beauty of the skies; and then the Lord God will
wipe away all tears from all faces.


Cambridge: Electrotyped and Printed by Welch, Bigelow, & Co.

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