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book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they con fessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.
And when they had declared the mercies of God to the seed of Abraham, the house of Israel, they said, Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the trouble seem little before thee that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day.
Howbeit thou art just in all that is brought upon us ;, for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly,
Neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments, and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them.
For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works.
Behold we are servants this day; and for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers, to eat the fruit thereof, and the good thereof, behold we are servants in it.
And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress,
And because of all this, we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, Levites, and priests, seal unto it.
And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinius, id all they · Vol. IV.
that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and 'their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding;
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD. our LORD, and his judgments and his statutes.
And that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons: - And if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the sabbath, or on the holy day; and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.
Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God;
For the shewbread, and for the continual meat-offering, and for the continual burnt-offering of the sabbaths, of the new moons, for the set feasts, and for the holy things, and for the sin offerings, to make an atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.
And we cast the lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood-offering, to bring it into the house of our God, after the houses of our fathers, at times appointed, year by year, to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law :
And to bring the first-fruits of our ground, and the I first-fruits of all fruit of all trees, year by year, unto the house of the LORD:
Also the first-born of our sons, and of our cattle, (as
it is written in the law), and the firstlings of our herds, and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God, ... And that we should bring the first-fruits of our dough,
and our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil, unto the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground unto the Levites, that the same Levites might have the tithes in all the cities of our tillage.
And the priest the son of Aaron shall be with the Levites, when the Levites take tithes: and the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes unto the house of our God, to the chambers, into the treasure house.
For the children of Israel and the children of Levi shall bring the offering of the corn, of the new wine, and the oil, unto the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests that minister, and the porters, and the singers; and we will not forsake the house of our God.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
It appears from this section, that the Levites per fectly well understood the conditions of the original covenant, which God made with Abraham, and were thoroughly convinced, that the LORD had faithfully performed His part of it. It is needless to comment on every part of this covenant; but one particular should not be passed over, namely, the resolution they took, not to buy victuals for exact debts on the Sabbath; the doing such things, unless in cases of absolute necessity, is a profanation of that holy day, which should carefully be avoided by all those who profess to honour God,
That the Israelites might no more plead ignorance of the law, in excuse for their sins, they from this time 02
had the Scriptures frequently read and explained to them by the most learned amongst the Levites and other scribes, which at first it is likely they did in the same manner as Ezra; but the inconvenience of standing in the open street in all weathers, suggested the thought of building afterwards houses or tabernacles for the purpose; and this seems to have been the original of synagogues, which soon multiplied like our parish-churches; for every town where there were ten persons of full age, and in easy circumstances of life, so as to have leisure to attend the public service, was at liberty to erect one, and in each of these synagogues was a copy of the law. The service performed in them consisted of prayers, reading the Scriptures, and preaching or expounding them. This was done two days in the week, besides on the Sabbath and the festivals. The law being divided into so many sections as there are weeks in the year, they read half a lesson on Monday morning, and the other half on Thursday morning, and this same lesson they read on the Sabbath both morning and afternoon; and when reading of the prophets was added to reading the law, the same order was observed in respect to them.
The hours of prayer amongst the Jews, whether in their Synagogues or private houses, were at the times of, offering the morning and evening sacrifices in the Temple ; for they supposed that the sacrifices. and incense were designed to render God propitious to them, and to make their prayers acceptable. The priests and Levites only officiated in the Temple, but persons of any tribe were appointed for the service of the synagogue by some of the elders of the town, who were called rulers of the synagogue.
Great advantages arose from the practice of building synagogues, and reading and explaining the Scriptures
for the Jews were never guilty of idolatry, any more: but when they were afterwards scattered into various nations, they erected places for public worship whereever the rulers of the country would permit them. It was also by means of these synagogues that the hea. thens, where the Jews were dispersed, came to know the true God, and some general principles of virtue and piety.
Nehemiah, after he had been governor of Judea twelve years, returned to the Persian court: he staid about five years in Persia,and then was sent by the king with a fresh commission: during his absence many things had gone wrong, but he exerted his usual zeal to reform all irregularities. About four years after Nehemiah's return to Jerusalem, Artaxerxes died in the forty-first year of his reign: during his government, Nehemiah acted with great justice, and supported his office with a very expensive magnificence out of his own private purse, he had, as I said before, amassed great wealth, and thought he could not expend it better than in the service of God and his country, and in promoting RELIGION, and God prospered him accordingly.
Artaxerxes was succeeded by his son Xerxes the second, who was killed by his brother Sogdianus,
Sogdianus was put to death in a cruel manner by his brother Ochus. . . .
Ochus obtained the kingdom, and changed his name to Darius, and is the same whom historians call Darius Nothus. . . . . .
Nehemiah, during these revolutions, continued still in the government of Judea. Eliashib the high-priest, died in the 11th year of the reign of Darius Nothus, and was succeeded by Jehoiada.
This king permitted a man named Sanballat to erect a Temple on mount Gerizim, like that at Jerusalem, 0.3