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 shewed kindness unto my master!”

At this moment, even before he had finished his supplications, & young woman in the bloom of virgin beauty approached the well, and descended the steps with a pitcher to draw water. When she came up again from the well, Eliezer was afresh impressed with her unaffected manner and attractive countenance, and at once singled her out as his younger master's predestined bride. He ran up to her and entreated permission to drink of her pitcher. She instantly took down the pitcher from her head and complied; and in the simplicity and exuberance of hospitality, she hastened repeatedly to pour the oft replenished pitcher into the trough for cattle, and supplied all his camels. He meanwhile stood in silent admiration and surprise; but at length offered her a suitable acknowledgment in a golden earring and two bracelets. He moreover inquired who she was, and requested accommodation to lodge. This was quite consistent with the habits of the age and country. She proclaimed herself to be the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Milcah, “ which she bare unto Nahor.” He bowed in thankfulness to her and gratitude to God.

Rebekah (for that was her name) hastened homeward, related the to circumstances, and prepared her family, relatives of Abraham, for her home.

the reception of the stranger. Her brother, Laban, even went forth to meet him, and gave the faithful and pious steward a most hearty welcome. Eliezer manifested remarkable sagacity in detailing all the circumstances under which he undertook this journey, in referring to its object and in expatiating on the wealth of Abraham.

The commission he had received was now at once successful, and commission

Rebekah consented to accompany the steward on his return.

The excellent qualities of this young woman were in happy keeping with the attractiveness of her person. Her industrious and domesticated habits—her sweet simplicity of manners—her modesty, combined with courtesy—and her kindness to animals, who had no tongue to solicit aid or proclaim their own necessities—are all conspicuous. She manifested a promptness and eagerness to perform gentle offices, which evinced an amiable heart that corresponded

with her fair countenance. Meeting of When Eliezer, with his lovely charge, had nearly arrived at

Hebron, they saw a person walking at a distance, apparently in profound meditation. Rebekah, imagining, perhaps, it might be one of Abraham's numerous household, asked her companion if he knew who it was. He replied, it was his young master Isaac. Upon which she put on a veil, and alighted from the camel. This was

Taken by Rebekah to



Rebekah's good qualities.

Isaac and


part of the ceremonial, when a bride was presented to her intended husband. Isaac seems to have avoided addressing her till he had learned all the particulars of his journey from Eliezer. In humble and joyful recognition of the providence of God, he then welcomed her to his heart and family, took her to Sarah's tent, and she became his wife.

The imagination dwells with delight on the happiness of such a union, and is ready to suppose that nothing but sunshine could ensue. Life, however, has ever been, and ever will be, a mixed condition. We are not in a condition of cloudless skies, and must look at futurity through the medium of past experience. Isaac and Rebekah were to their deep affliction childless for twenty years: an They are affliction the deeper that Isaac was the son of promise, that the chile multiplication of his seed was recorded, and that he had married with hope and in the fear of God. He, therefore, “entreated the Lord for his wife,” and his prayer was heard. Twins were at length born Esau and to them, of which the elder was destined to serve the younger. Jacob's name signifies the supplanter; he having secured by a stratagem the birthright belonging to Esau. Rebekah was accessory to this proceeding, and both she and Isaac appear to have been divided in their partialities; each having a favourite child. Rebekah's contrivance succeeded in surreptitiously obtaining the father's blessing, but in what did it result ? In the settled hostility of the Family brothers, and the necessity of their separation. Parents should bro beware of favouritism, which in this instance had nearly involved bloodshed and ruin.

Rebekah was very anxious about Jacob after his departure ; especially lest he should be tempted in his wanderings to form some idolatrous connection. She expressed herself in strong terms of apprehension, which no less evinced the power of her religion. And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life, because of the daughters of Heth: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do to me?

At this point it is singular that the Scripture narrative drops her name.

RUTH. This distinguished individual is believed to have been of the royal A.M. 2813. race of Moab, a nation which descended from Lot, and settled on B c. 1136. the borders of the Salt Sea. She married Mahlou, the son of Elime. Ruth. lech, who, in consequence of a famine in Judæa, went to reside in Moab. After his death she became a proselyte, confiding in the A proselyte promises given to the tribe of Judah to which her husband had belonged. Elimelech also sought a temporary asylum in Moab, taking with him his wife Naomi and his two sons Mahlon and Changes Chilion. He having died, the former married Ruth, the latter family.


in the

Journey to

Orpah's return.

Ruth's adhesion.

Orpah. Both these sons of Naomi dying also, she was left with her two daughters-in-law to struggle with adversity in that, to her at least, foreign land. At the end of two years, having learnt that the famine had abated in Judea, Naomi resolved upon returning thither. After proceeding to a short distance, she earnestly desired Ruth and Orpah to allow her to go alone, while they went back to their own country and friends. Their disinterestedness and affection however would not suffer them to listen to this maternal kindness, and they assured her of their determination to share her misfortunes. “Surely,” said they, “we will return with thee unto thy people.” She remonstrated, urged, and commanded them again. The struggle became severe. Orpah at last consented; but Ruth was unshaken. “Entreat me not to leave thee," she exclaimed, “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, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” This was the perfection of love; a pure attachment founded in religion, and abandoning all merely personal considerations. We have here too an example of decision in religion, and a fearlessness in professing it in despite of early associations and predilections. She cast away for ever the gods of Moab, and chose for her portion the God of Israel.

The two travellers went to Bethlehem, having performed å journey of one hundred and twenty miles; but Naomi seems overwhelmed with a sense of her destitution, the changed aspect of things after ten years of absence, and perhaps the coldness of former friends, who would only know her in prosperity.

It was providentially the season of barley harvest, or the beginning of May, and luxuriant productiveness clothed the fields, so lately barren. They were, however, poor and unprovided. What was to be done? The faithful Ruth proposes to go and glean. What considerate kindness to her mother-in-law. She alone would undertake the employment to gain subsistence, but she failed not to ask Naomi's permission.

It happened that she went to the field of Boaz, who was a man of wealth, and a relative of Naomi. Having come to survey the reapers, he observed Ruth at her humble task, and inquired of his steward who she was, probably somewhat attracted by her pleasing appearance. Unlike those who are criminally negligent and even ashamed of their poor relations, he immediately addressed her in an affectionate manner, and she replied in modest and humble terms. Boaz intimated that he had ascertained her history, knew the voluntary sacrifices she had made, and gave her his blessing. She acknowledges the favour, and requests the continuance of his goodness. He repeats his assurances, and invites her to partake of the rural repast, and plentifully supplied her with “parched corn"

[blocks in formation]

gain Boaz.


with his own hand. On her return to the field to glean, he enjoined his reapers to “let fall some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them that she may glean them, and rebuke her not."

With what heartfelt satisfaction must Ruth have gone home to Naomi on that evening. With astonishment and joy she hears from her mother-in-law of the relationship of Boaz to her family, and she encourages her to accept the bounty of Boaz, who desired her to keep to his field till the close of harvest. Moreover, she took the first opportunity of suggesting measures to win the love and secure a connection of marriage with the great relative who had befriended her. If these appear very extraordinary to us, we must recollect the difference of manners and customs from our own in those remote ages, and we may perhaps after all admit some degree of impropriety in the contrivances adopted. Ruth was directed by Naomi Plan to to go with the utmost secrecy to the threshing-floor, and when Boaz gain retired to rest among the corn, to place herself at his feet. When he spoke she was to answer frankly. She did so, and he promised Ruth's all that a sense of her virtues and a knowledge of her rights dictated. suc The law authorized an application that the possessions of the family might not be alienated. Kinsmen were required to intermarry, and Lev. xxv. 23in case of refusal, the near relative was treated with great indignity. 28. Boaz was aware of the legal claim, and informed her there was a nearer kinsman. If he did not perform his part, he avowed his own resolution to do so. Ruth carried the intelligence home, and Boaz went to the gate in the morning, stopped the relative to whom he had alluded, and appealed to ten of the elders of the city. He at first agreed to the redemption of some family inheritance of Naomi, but being informed if he bought the land he must marry Ruth, he declined in favour of his relative, and Boaz, calling upon all the elders and people assembled to bear witness that this was a fair and and honourable transaction, married Ruth.

marriage. The closing part of this narrative deepens in interest. We hear of the birth of Obed. The event is universally celebrated. “And Obed born. 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 thine old age: for thy daughter-in-law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him. And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. And the women her neighbours 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 David.

HANNAH. Hannah was a wife of Elkanah, who descended from Zuph, an A.M. 2883. Ephrathite, or inhabitant of Bethlehem-Judah, the same with B.c. 1161. Ephratah. He had also another wife named Peninnah. They 8. H.

2 c

1 Sam. i. 11.

resided at a place in the tribe of Ephraim called RamathaimZophim. Peninnah had children, and often indulged herself in ridiculing Hannah because she was not so favoured. But herein her first excellence of character is apparent, that she bore the daily insults she received with meekness and patience, returning no harsh reproaches, though she deeply felt her peculiar affliction. Elkanah went up to the festivals of holy worship celebrated every year at Shiloh, accompanied by his family; but while there committed a folly in giving a worthy or double portion to Hannah, expressive of his pre-eminent affection, which inflamed the bitter hostility of Peninnah. Hannah was full of anxiety and distress; and what was her conduct? Did she return railing for railing, or abandon her duties in sullen despondency? Far from it. She appealed with a humble importunity to the God of Israel in the following solemn and earnest pleadings and resolve: “ And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of Hosts, if thou will 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 I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” Here was “reverence and godly fear”-profound humility-submission and dependence of spirit op the divine will and holy fervour, which always characterizes genuine prayer.

The venerable priest, Eli, was at the time sitting by a post of the temple, and observing the agitation of this pious woman, sadly misinterpreted it, either from defect of eye-sight or defect of charityit might be both. At any rate, he pronounced a very hasty and unwarrantable judgment, and with much vehemence accused her of intoxication. “How long,” said he, “wilt thou be drunken? put away thy wine from thee.” His extreme jealousy for the honour of the temple may admit of some palliation of the rudeness of this attack; it cannot, however, be justified. Great and good men should be very careful of reflecting upon the conduct of others without sufficient examination, as their position gives power to their words. But how did Hannah meet the charge ?

Here, again, we must admire her meekness, and present her as an example of calm, dispassionate, and dignified self-defence under a most aggravating censure. “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 thine handmaid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complaint and grief have I spoken hitherto.” It was highly honourable to Eli that he not only at once retracted his hasty accusation, but spoke to her with the utmost kindness, pronouncing a blessing upon her, and expressing a fervent desire that the God of Israel would grant her petition.

On the day fixed for the return of the family from Shiloh, they

Eli's acrusation.

Hannah's defence.

« 前へ次へ »