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Some of the kings of Judah really possessed exquisite sagacity: David and Solomon in particular. The spirit of extraordinary illumination has sometimes rested upon other princes,' when God would bless the nations they governed. In such cases, without doubt," there is great truth in that saying, A sentence of divination is in the lips of the king : his mouth transgresseth not in judgment. Prov. xvi. 10. But this wisdom is not always appendant to majesty, though some Western flatterers, as well as some of the East, have described them to be like angels of God in point of knowledge; they have also contended for their possessing the power of healing a virulent disorder by their royal touch: in both assertions they have been equally in the right.
Mode of drawing up Decrees-in the East,
The manner of making Eastern decrees differs from ours: they are first written, and then the magistrate authenticates them or annuls them.
This, I remember, is the Arab manner according to d’Arvieux. When an Arab wanted a favour of the Emir, the way was to apply to the secretary, who drew up a decree accord
• 1 Sam. xvi. 13. 1 Kings iii. 12-28.
ing to the request of the party ; if the Emir granted the favour, he printed his seal upon it; if not, he returned it torn to the petitioner.
Sir J. Chardin confirms this account, and applies it, with great propriety, to the illustration of a passage which I never thought of when I read over d'Arvieux. After citing Is. x. 1, Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and to the writers that write greviousness, (for so our translators have rendered the latter part of the verse in the margin, much more agreeably than in the body of the version,) Sir John goes on, “ the manner of making the royal acts and ordinances hath a relation to this : they are always drawn up according to the request ; the first minister, or he whose office it is, writes on the side of it, 'according to the king's will,' and from thence it is sent to the secretary of state, who draws up the order in form.”g
They that consult Vitringa upon the passage, will find that commentators have been perplexed about the latter part of this woe: every one sees the propriety of denouncing evil on those that decree unrighteous judgments; but it is not very clear why they are threatened that write them-it certainly would be wrong to punish thə clerks of our courts, that have no other concern in unjust decrees, than in barely
Voy. dans la Pal. p. 61, 154, and 155, & P. 63
writing them down, according to the duty of their place—are mere amanuenses.
But according to the Eastern mode, we find he that writes or draws up the order at first is deeply concerned in the injustice, since he expresses matters as he pleases, and is the source of the mischief; the superior only passes or rejects it. He indeed is guilty if he passes an unjust order, because he ought to have rejected it; but a great deal of the guilt unquestionably comes upon him that first draws the order, and who makes it more or less oppressive to others, just as he pleases, or rather, according to the present that is made him by the party that solicits the order.
For it appears from d’Arvieux, that the secretary of the Emir drew up no order without a present, which were wont to be proportionate to the favour asked ; and that he was very oppressive in his demands.
In this view of things the words of the Prophet are very clear, and easy to be understood; and Sir J. Chardin, by his acquaintance with the East, proves a much better interpreter than the most learned Western commentators, even celebrated rabbies themselves : for, according to Vitringa, rabbi David Kimchi supposes the judges themselves were the writers the Prophet meant, and so called, because they caused others to write unjust determinations : though Vitringa admits, that such an interpretation does not well agree with the conjugation of the Hebrew word,
Manner of the Expeditions of petty Princes in the
The expedition of Chederlaomer and his associates, mentioned Gen. xiv. to an European reader seems very strange, almost incredible; but expeditions of a like kind still continue among the Arabs.
What appears strange in the Mosaic account is, the smallness of the number of their troops, with which the petty kings of five single cities dared to contend, ver. 9, against those who had made so many conquests, ver. 5, 6, 7; and the distance from whence these came, one of them at least from the land of Shinaar, ver. I.
Mekkrami, an Arab Sheekh, Niebuhr tells us, by his politics and valour became terrible to his neighbours, and even to distant states: he then mentions several of his expeditions ; and after adds, “ having thus caused his army to pass, in a little time, through the whole breadth of Arabia, from the Arabian gulph to the Persian, even through strange countries, which would be impossible to be done in our method of making war in Europe. But the Arabian armies take neither cannon with them, nor many tents; the small quantity of provisions and ammunition which they have with
them is carried on camels, and their soldiers, who are nearly naked, or at least very thinly clad, are not oppressed with arms." p, 237. .
It appears from the account that Niebuhr gives of his expeditions, that he passed over a considerable desert; that he attacked very different clans of Arabs; that he fell upon very distant parts of the country from that which he governed; and that his army was but small: circumstances very much resembling those of the ancient princes mentioned by Moses, who seem to have been Arabs, one of them reigning over a portion of the land of Shinaar, whose extent in these times we may not be able precisely to determine ; the other three neighbours.
Niebuhr also mentions a stratagem of an Arab prince, very much resembling that of Gideon, whose three hundred men blew with trumpets in different avenues to the Midianitish camp: which modern stratagem, like the ancient one, was successful, and ended in the ruin of the invaders, p. 438. But I shall take no farther notice of this; for though it is incidentally and undesignedly mentioned by Niebuhr, the learned Michaelis has taken notice of the conformity between the two stories, in the extract which he published of Niebuhr's Description of Arabia, p. 36; only adding this remark, that probably the Midiantish army was encamped in a place pretty much surrounded by high hills, like the modern Arab camp, and that the three companies of Gideon's people shewed themselves in three different entrances