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thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.” *
This prophecy of Isaiah is a manifest repetition and expansion of that in the seventy-second Psalm ; and it still more specifically directs our attention to Arabia, and the posterity of Ishmael, for both the primary, and the eventual, fulfilment of both predictions. But let us examine some cir. cumstances in them a little more nearly, in connection with the Gospel narrative of the journey of the wise men from the East.
Arabia Deserta, it will be observed, is constantly expressed, in the idiom of the Old Testament, by the appellation of “ the East,” or “ the East Country." Arabia Felix, fertile in gold, is the native soil of incense. And thus, the leading marks of the two prophecies meet together in the Gospel accounts of the magi : for these wise men from the East to Jerusalem ;” they came thither to worship “ the King's Son," that is, the infant Messiah, the newlyborn“ King of the Jews ;” “and, when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts ; GOLD, and FRANKINCENSE, and Myrrh.”+
The “magi” of the evangelists, are by the prophets entitled “ kings;" and the designations are perfectly reconcileable, or rather consistent with one another. According to an ordinary acceptation of the title king, in the Old Testament, their prophetical designation was amply justified by the rank which, as the richness of their offerings bespeaks, they held, as Arabian Emirs ; the only rank, indeed, among the Bedoweens, equivalent to that of king.
From what has been elsewhere remarked, respecting the wide-spread settlement of the Abrahamic family in the peninsula, the probability is obviously a high one, that these Arab chiefs were themselves of the race of Abraham. Epiphanius makes them descendants of the patriarch, by Keturah. But the main considerations in the Gospel narrative are, the confirmation which it gives to all the earlier tokens, of the continued existence, among the ancient Arabs, of vestiges of the true Abrahamic faith ; and the providential connection which the fact there recorded serves to maintain, in the moment of our Lord's coming, between the respective families and covenants of Isaac and Ishmael. For here, in the
Isaiah, lx. 6—9. + In the following passage of S. Jerome are happily united the Christian father and the Christian poet :
« Pulcherrime munerum Juvencus presbyter uno versiculo comprehendit:
Tus, aurum, myrrham : regique, hominique, Deoque
Galland. Bibl. Vet. Patr. tom. iv. Proleg.
persons of her wise men, we see Arabia, as had been foretold of her, coming in to the King Messiah as the firstfruits of the Gentiles; we see Ishmael, bowing down to Isaac, and bringing his lower covenant to pay homage and obeisance, at the feet of the Divine offspring and heir of the great covenant of promise. While this glad fulfilment of the prophecy of David, stands to us as a pledge and foretaste of the still more glorious accomplishment of the kindred prediction of Isaiah, which describes the tribes of Arabia, as ushering in the fulness of the Gentiles; and represents the general conversion of the seed of Ishmael, as among the last and greatest triumphs of the Gospel of Christ.
This scriptural view of the mission of these eastern sages, gives to the entire transaction a unity and consistency, every way becoming the majesty and wisdom of the Divine dealings; and which, upon any narrower hypothesis, might be sought after in vain. The extraordinary skill which the magi of the Gospel discovered, in the interpretation of the sign of the newly-risen star, may thus also be intelligibly accounted for. To unveil the mystery of this unparalleled phenomenon, the vain science of astrology *, so much in
* One most interesting application of this favourite Arabian science has been preserved by Selden. Speaking of the figures employed to personify the heavenly signs, he observes :— “ Vultus autem illi cælestes non modo xlviii. constellationes globis depictas, verum innumeras et portentosas etiam illas figuras denotant, quæ Persæ, Indi, atque Ægyptii, cum unoquoque signi decano, seu quolibet decani gradu, ascendere tradebant :
use among the Arabs, could have been intrinsically of no avail. But, without having recourse, in the first instance, for a solution of the case, to the extreme alternative of an immediate inspiration*, the traditional lights already shown to have been preserved in the great Arabian family, will alone enable us to explain the seeming difficulty.
From their 'connecting the appearance of an unknown star, with the idea of kingly power, it seems manifest, that the tradition of the prophecy of Balaam, a prophecy originally delivered in Arabia, still survived in the peninsula, and was familiar to the wise men in the Gospel. But, if we presuppose, as there is so much reason to pre-suppose, a traditional acquaintance, on the part of these sages, with the promises and faith of Abraham, this prediction of Balaam, when once fulfilled, must, from the sensible character of the fulfilment, have become its own interpreter. For, trained, by the first elements of the patriarchal faith, in the expectation of some great deliverer, the appearance of a strange star in the heavens would naturally awaken recollections of the promised star of Jacob, and would, as naturally, lead their thoughts and steps toward Judea, wherein the prediction of Balaam fore-warned them it should one day arise and shine; while the prophetic mention of the sceptre of Israel, might further instruct them, to seek in Judea a regal deliverer, even Him, who was “ born King of the Jews.”
quarum in numero est illa, quam in primo Virginis decano sphæræ Persicæ collocant; Virgo nempe pulchra, capillitio prolixe, duas spicas manu gestans, residens in siliquastro, educans puerulum, lactans et cibans eum.
“ Pro exemplo hanc magis attuli, quod non solum ALBOASAR decanum illum uti cæleste unici Salvatoris Jesu nativitatis symbolum notaverit MAHUMMEDANUS; verum etiam insignis ille mathematicus, et vir ultra sane quam
seculum suum tulit doctus, Rogerus Bachonus, Oxoniensis et Minorita, Alboasaris sententiam fuerit amplexus. Opere enim tertio, quod ad Clementem Quartum dedit, Alboasaris verba, ab Hermanno Dalmata Latine ex Arabico facta, citat, subjungitque : Intentio est, quod beata Virgo habet figuram et imaginem infra decem primos gradus Virginis, et quod nata fuit quando Sol est in Virgine, et ita habetur signatum in Calendario, et quod nutriet Filium suum Christum Jesum in terra Hebræorum." De Diis Syris. Op. tom. iii. pp. 282, 283.
It is impossible to avoid connecting with this specimen of Arabian astrology, the accommodation to the peculiar studies of the magi in the Gospel, observable in the notification of our Lord's advent to them by the appearance of “ His star in the East;" which heavenly sign, moreover, “ went before them, till it came and stood over where the
child The correspondence of the prophetic symbol with their national science might be illustrated from the fact, that, in eastern astrology, the Vultus cælestes indicated similar Vultus hujus seculi. But the author is obliged, for his own satisfaction, to refer the whole occurrence to the tradition of the prophecy of Balaam, and to the concurrence of the unknown star, with the general expectation then prevalent among the Arabs.
* Subsequently, they did receive a warning from heaven, in a dream. See St. Matt. ii. 12.
We will now, in conclusion, briefly recapitulate the steps of the argument. 1. In the history of Job and his friends, the religion of Abraham and the patriarchs is to be seen in extraordinary vigour in Arabia, about, or prior to, the age of Moses. 2. In the scriptural accounts of Jethro, and of his descendants, the Kenites and Rechabites, the independent existence and transmission of that patriarchal faith can be continuously traced, from the time of Moses, to that of Jeremiah : since this Arab race, though living in Judea, preserved its national manners and usages unchanged, and dwelt, from the date of its first settlement to that of the Babylonish captivity, in a state of civil and religious separation from the Jews. 3. In the reign of Solomon, an incidental corroboration of both preceding testimonies arises, from the heart of Arabia, in the voyage of the Queen of Sheba to Jerusalem, to hear the inspired wisdom of the king. 4. The origin and object of whose journey may seem, in the last place, significantly illustrated and explained by another, and similar journey of Arabian sages, the magi or wise men of Saint Matthew's Gospel, to háil the promised advent of “ one greater than Solomon," — to pay their prophetic worship, and present their predicted offerings, to the infant Messiah.
But, over and above the witness which the foregoing scriptural relations bear to the primitive existence, and constant preservation, among the ancient Arabians, of a
religion deriving from patriarchal times, and from the Abrahamic creed, * - the subject matter of those relations may fairly be accepted as no inconsiderable proof of the existence, also, of a designed connection between the covenants, as well as between the families, of Isaac and Ishmael. Inasmuch as the book of Job was incorporated, from the beginning, into the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures; and the examples, of this Arabian patriarch, of the family of Jethro, and of the Queen of the South, are cited, both in the Old Testament and in the Gospel, for the special religious encouragement, or warning, of God's chosen people.
The force of these several testimonies, taken independently of each other, would, probably, be admitted by candid reasoners, as by no means inconsiderable. But it becomes, as all must allow, materially augmented, when viewed, as it ought to be viewed, in connection with other historical vouchers, previously adduced, in elucidation of the Abrahamic origin of the religious belief which obtained in anteMahometan Arabia : namely, the rite of circumcision, as nationally practised by the Arabs, in the time of Josephus, in commemoration of the circumcision of Ishmael, their father; the legible marks of patriarchal and Abrahamic traditions, engraven on the decorations, and embodied with the solemnities, of the Caaba ; and the popular belief in the great doctrine of one God, still practically existing among the pagan tribes of the peninsula, in the time of Mahomet.
*“ Arabes necessariò de proto-parentis sui religione antiquitùs proculdubio aliquid inaudiverint, eaque illis innotuerit.” Hyde, Hist. Vet. Relig. Pers. p. 33. cf. p. 35.