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and when God enjoins the first fruits of honey to be offered to him, the fruit of dates seems to be meant, for generally the produce only of fruits was offered.” Kitto quotes this and adds, " the Arabs also still apply Dibs to the dates, and the honey of dates.
Sir John Maundevile, who visited Palestine, Arabia and India, about A. D. 1322, more than five hundred years ago, in his narrative says, “There ben other trees that beren hony, gode and swete." If dates are not here intended, it proves at least a generic use of the term honey at that period in the Orient.
We will here also introduce a quotation from Josephus, to which we have before referred. In an apparently incidental account which he gives of the Jordan valley and Jericho, speaking of the prolific fountain of Elisha at Jericho, and of its fructifying powers, he says, “ Accordingly it waters a larger space of ground than any other waters do, and passes along a plain of seventy furlongs long and twenty broad ;* wherein it affords nourishment to those excellent gardens that are thick set with trees. There are in it many sorts of palm-trees that are watered by it, different from each other in taste and name; the better sort of them, when they are pressed, yield an excellent kind of honey, not much inferior in sweetness to other kinds of honey.”+ There can be no doubt that he here refers to the date-palm, and states the fact that the pressed sweetmeat or the candied date was honey not much inferior in sweetness to the honey of bees, for in the immediate connection he adds, “this country withal produces honey from bees.”
The climate of this part of the Jordan valley, in its deep depression of thirteen hundred feet below the Mediterranean, is almost tropical;f its incessant heats would render that portion of it around Jericho, which is still abundantly supplied with water from this same beautiful and prolific fountain of Elisha, peculiarly adapted to the rearing of the palm.
It would appear that in several varieties the palm was here
• A very near description of the region we now find capable of artificial irrigation from the fountains of Duk and Elisha.
| Book of Wars, iv. ch. 8. * V. New York Observer, July 24, 1851, article “ Jericho and its Plain."
le for ched Bedong comment, cognomer
indigenous to the soil, for we learn also that in the early days of Moses they so abounded as to give to Jericho the cognomen of “ City of Palm-trees.” It is a striking commentary on the character of its present wretched Bedowin Arab inhabitants, that a tree so invaluable for producing a nutritious and agreeable article of food should have been allowed to become extinct. The dry trunk of the last tree on the plain was standing near our encampment when we visited Jericho. Dr. Shaw says there were several palm-trees at Jericho when he visited the plain.
It would thus seem that the word rendered honey by our translators, is generic in the Hebrew Scriptures, a comprehensive term for all sweets; that it more frequently indicates dates than the honey of bees; and that when the latter honey is intended to be indicated, it is generally if not always accompanied with the qualifying terms; and there seems to be evidence that the LXX so used it in the Septuagint version. We have seen in the quotation from Josephus, that the palmtree produced what was designated honey in the days of John the Baptist.
We have evidence from various quarters, that the Hebrew 027, Debash, has virtually come down to the present day in the cognate language of the Arabs, in the term Dibs, as applied by them to designate dates and other sweet substances, as also in the Dabsi of the Maltese. The native language of Malta seems to be a compound of Arabic and Italian; but so closely assimilates with the Arabic, that the islanders are understood by the Arabs without difficulty.
Dr. Shaw says: “Hebron alone sends every year to Egypt three hundred camel loads of Rabb, which they call Dibee, the same word that is rendered honey in the Scriptures.” Travels, p. 367. There is some evidence that the Greek collateral term uén, honey, was not only used by the LXX in a comprehensive sense, but that it has classic authority; "Tò úov uén, the Persian manna; and metaphorically of any thing sweet.” Liddell and Scott's Lex. sub voce péna.
We might here show that the honey of bees, as an article of food, is entirely unadapted permanently to sustain the healthful action of the human system: and moreover, that it was principally used as a luxury by the Jews, to sweeten their unleavened bread and drinks. It deserves to be remembered, too, that the Arabs, in their domestic customs, have brought down to us nearly all the peculiar habits of the Jews unchanged. It is only in this form that the honey of bees is used by them, and not as a substantial element of nutrition; while dates are the principal food of thousands in the Orient for many months in the year.
Apparently, to get over the insuperable difficulties of the texts, Matt. iii. 4 and Mark i. 6, as referring to the honey of bees, some learned commentators and lexicographers tell us, that this uém åypcov, on which the Baptist fed, was a vegetable honey, or manna, and not the honey of bees. Kitto says, "the wild honey (meli agrion) which, with locusts formed the diet of John the Baptist, was probably the vegetable honey, which we refer to manna." V. i. 859. Dr. Robinson, in his Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, remarks on pénı aypíov: “ Here the honey of wild bees is to be understood, made in hollow trees and crevices of the rocks ; others understand Honey Dew, found in Arabia upon leaves of certain species of trees,” &c. But he remarks, “the evidence is very slight that this was ever common in Judea, and especially in the high desert west of the Dead Sea.” Our observation led us to concur entirely in this last remark; this Wilderness of Judea has ever been “a dry and thirsty land where no water is,” and where trees or even shrubs have hardly been produced.
But could we have reason to believe that vegetable honey as it is termed, or manna, had been found here, it would not relieve the difficulty; from what is known of it, its qualities are highly medicinal. “ The Arabs use it as they do honey, to pour over their unleavened bread, or to dip their bread into it; if eaten in any quantity it is said to be highly purgative.” Kitto, v. ü. p. 294. He refers also to several other productions of like character. We find in Sir John Maundevile's Narrative the following remarks in his description of the land of Job. “There ben hilles, where men getten gret plentee of manna—this manna is clept bred of Aungeles—it comethe of the dew of Hevene that fallethe upon the Herbes—men putten it in Medicynes for rich men, to purge evylle Blode: for it clenseth the Blode, and putteth out Malencolye.”
From the want of knowledge, or having overlooked the peculiar qualities and use of the date, in ancient as well as in modern times, it appears that the investigations of the learned to ascertain the food of John, have carried some of them far away into deserts of uncertainty and barrenness, when a more simple view would have revealed the object of their search at the very threshold.
We shall probably be met with this objection: If dates are meant by the Evangelists, how are we to reconcile the apparent difficulties of their being designated “wild honey”? We might answer, that we do not believe that the Jews knew any thing of the custom of domesticating the bee, and in that respect all their honey from the bee was field-honey, and if so, there was no need of the use of the adjective to discriminate it, if bees' honey alone is intended. We reply, however, to the objection, that it would doubtless have been equally proper to have rendered péni äypcov, field-honey, or “honey from the field,” and then we conceive we have the very designation which we might expect to have been applied to new gathered dates, “fresh from the field,” and on their natural stems, in distinction from the old sweetmeat, the candied, sweated, and pressed date.
We have seen that they are produced from the palm. tree, growing on pendant stems, of several pounds in weight, one of which would afford food to John for several days.
That the date abounded at Jericho, in the immediate vicinity of the labors of the Baptist there can be no doubt. They were thus easily obtained, portable, simple, nutritious and needing no culinary art. We will here add a remark omitted in its proper place, that the date-bearing palm and olive-tree were the most essential of the fruit-bearing trees of Palestine, and if the date was tithed, it must have been under the designation of van Debash. Dr. Shaw says, p. 370: “Several parts of the Holy Land, no less than Idumea, that lies contiguous to it, are described by the ancients as abounding with date-trees. Thus Judea, which denotes the whole country of the Jews, is typified on several coins of Vespasian, by a disconsolate woman sitting nuder a palm-tree. Upon the Greek coin of his son Titus, struck upon a like occasion, we see a shield suspended over a palm-tree, with a Victory writing upon it.” The climate of the Philistine plain is well suited to the production of the palm. We noticed many of them still existing, particularly in the vicinity of Gaza.
It may not be improper here to say, that the substance of these views has been suggested to a Missionary who has spent more than thirty years in the Orient, and who is familiar with the date and its use as fresh from the field, and in its honeyed or sweetmeat state, and that he concurs in the views here taken. We are admonished by the space already occupied, that this discussion, although by no means exhausted, must be referred to other hands, satisfied with our imperfect efforts, if they shall lead to a more correct elucidation of an interesting portion of God's Holy Word.
ARTICLE V. Christian and Civic Economy of Great Towns. By the Rev.
Thomas CHALMERS, D. D.
s not direct conditions, ite inspires the bene
The Gospel is the one great remedy for human ills. If it does not directly feed and clothe and heal afflicted human nature in all its conditions, it exercises an influence that ultimately secures the result. It inspires the benevolence that supplies the wants of the unfortunate; it awakens the industry, the frugality, the self-reliance and forecast which anticipate and prevent disaster. It ministers consolation under accumulated and unavoidable ills, and it unfolds those profound principles which become the safe guides of Christian compassion after it has been elicited.
The first impulse of humane sentiments leads us to supply the wants that appeal to our senses, to staunch the blood and bind up the wounds of one suffering from recent injury, to supply food to those who are emaciated with hunger, and to clothe such as are shivering for the want of comfortable apparel. To search out the causes of such destitution and distress, and to apply a re