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by the overthrow of their civil and religious polity, and the reduction of the people to a state of the most abject slavery; for though, in the reign of Adrian, numbers of them collected together, in different parts of Judæa, it is to be observed, they were then considered and treated as rebellious slaves; and these commotions were made a pretence for the general slaughter of those who were taken, and tended to complete the work of their dispersion into all countries under heaven, Since that time the Jews have no where subsisted as a nation.
BRIEFLY as I have endeavoured to relate the history of the Jews, the period which commences with the close of the antient Scriptures is so little known, that it may be useful to collect the principal facts under one point of view, for the
purpose of showing more clearly the connexion between the Old and New Testaments; and as the nature of the Jewish government appears to be very frequently misunderstood I shall take this opportunity of adding a few observations upon that subject, and shall also subjoin a short account of the land of Canaan, both of which may serve to throw some light upon Scripture history,
The Jews had many revolutions of peace and
war, and some changes in the mode of their government, from the time of their return from the Babylonian captivity, to their complete subjection to the Romans; but their sacerdotal
government, as it is sometimes called, continued with but little interruption through this whole space of about 600 years. Having returned into their own country, under the sanction and by the authority of Cyrus, they acknowledged the sovereignty of the kings of Persia, till that empire was overturned by Alexander the Great; they then became subject to his successors, first in Egypt, and afterwards in Syria, till, having been deprived of their religious and civil liberties for three years and an half by Antiochus Epiphanes, they were restored, both to the exercise of their religion and to their antient independence, by the piety and bravery of Mattathias and his descendants. Under these Maccabæan princes they became an entirely free state, supported by good troops, strong garrisons, and alliances, not only with neighbouring powers, but with remote kingdoms, even Rome itself. This glory of the Jews was but of short duration; for though the decline of the kingdoms of Egypt and Syria, prevented their interference in the affairs of other states, yet the entire ruin of these two kingdoms, by the great accession of power which it brought
to the Romans, paved the way for the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth. . Pompey compelled the Jews to submit to the arms of Rome, and from that time their country was tributary to the Romans, although it was still governed by Maccabæan princes. The last of that family was.conquered and deposed by Herod the Great, an Idumaan by birth, but of the Jewish religion, who had been appointed king of the Jews by the Romans, and enjoyed a long reign over the whole of Palestine, in the course of which he greatly diminished the civil power of the high priest. He was succeeded in the government of the greater part of Palestine by his son Archelaus, whose misconduct caused Augustus to banish him, and to reduce his dominions into the form of a Roman province; and thus it appears, that with the exception of the short predicted tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes, the kingdom of Judah, for some time independent, but generally tributary, continued to enjoy its own religion, and the form of its civil government, till after the birth of the Messiah. During our Saviour's ministry the Jews were permitted to perform their religious worship without restraint or molestation ; but Judæa and Samaria were then governed by a Roman procurator, who had power of life and death, and Galilee was
governed, under the authority of the Romans, by Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great, with the name of tetrarch. These circumstances of humiliation were far from producing contrition and amendment in the Jews. Having neglected all the means of repentance graciously afforded them, and at last filled up the measure of their aggravated wickedness by the rejection and cru. cifixion of their “ Lord and King,” they brought upon themselves the utter destruction of their national polity, and have now continued in an acknowledged state of punishment more than seventeen hundred
WITH respect to the nature of the Jewish government, which seems to be very improperly called Republican, we may observe, that it partook of the patriarchal form as much as was consistent with the condition and circumstances of a nation, and this accounts for our being left to form our opinion upon this subject from facts and commands incidentally mentioned, rather than from a detailed relation of the different powers and ranks in the state in their regular order. The Israelites had preserved the patriarchal mode of life and rules of government during their residente, nay, even during their 8
bondage, bondage, in Egypt (t). These patriarchal laws and customs, therefore, being already established, no particular direction respecting subordination was necessary. Antient institutions, which har monized with the Mosaic dispensation, were continued, and others were added, to complete a system for the peculiar government of this peculiar people; and I think it will be found, that Şeripture affords more information upon this subject than is generally imagined.
Three degrees of judges or judicatures are dis, tinctly mentioned in the 24th chapter of Joshua : “And Joshuacalled (first) for the elders of Israel;"' these were the “ elders of the whole people,” or “ of the congregation,”--the great national council (u) established by Moses, and in after times called the great Sanhedrim, consisting of seventy persons, both priests and laymen, besides the president, who, after the time of Moses, was usually the high priest ; “ and (secondly) for their heads,” these were the heads or “princes of the twelves tribes," in whom was vested a peculiar and supreme authority over each tribe, as their chief magistrate and leader in time of war, subject however to the control of the
(t). Exod. c. 3. v. 16. c. 24. v. 1 and 11