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In those days of roughness, when war knew not the softenings of later times, men were wont to bury in the earth every part of their property that could be concealed after that manner, not only filver and gold, but wheat, barley, oil, and honey'; vestments » and writings too'.
For that, I apprehend, was the occasion of Jeremiah's ordering, that the writings he delivered to Baruch, mentioned in his thirtyfecond chapter, should be
into an eartben vellel.
The experience of preceding ages must have informed him, that lying in the earth, naked and uninclosed, would soon bring on decay; if not, he had had himself a proof of it. « Take “ the girdle that thou hast got,” said the Lord to him, “ which is upon thy loins, and “ arise, go to Euphrates, and bide it there in
hole of the rock. So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the Lord commanded
And it came to pass after many days, « that the Lord said unto me, Arise, go to
Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, " which I commanded thee to hide there. “ Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, “ and took the girdle from the place where “ I had hid it: and behold, the girdle was « marred; it was profitable for nothing."
To obviate this, and preserve what was bu
· Jer. 41. 8. Jer. 13. 4.-7.
2 Josh. 7. 21,
; Jer. 32. 14,
ried more effectually, the ancient Ægyptians made use of earthen urns, or pots of a proper frape for receiving what they wanted to inter in the earth, and which without such care would have foon been destroyed. Maillet, describing the place in which those people used to bury their embalmed birds, represents it as a fubterraneous labyrinth, from which persons could not disengage themselves, were it not for ibe help of a line of packthread. It's several alleys are adorned, on each side, with many small niches, in which are found stone-vessels and pots of earth, in which are inclosed embalmed birds, which turn to dust as soon as touched. What is admirable in this affair is, that all the variety and liveliness of the colouring of their plumage is preserved.
If they buried in earthen pots the things they wanted to preserve in Ægypt, whose subterraneous caverns are so dry, and covered with several feet of burning fand; the prophet Jeremiah might well suppose it proper to inclose those writings in an earthen pot, which were to be buried in Judæa, in some place where they might be found without much difficulty on their return from captivity.
Two different writings, or small rolls of writing, called books, in the original Hebrew, (their books being only each of them a roll of writing, and these consequently being properly little books, according to their notions of
things,) were evidently to be inclosed in this earthen vessel, and commentators have been terribly embarrassed to give any probable account why there were two writings: one sealed; the other open-according as it is commonly understood, the one sealed up; the other left open for any one to read. One cannot imagine any cause why there should be this distinction made between them, when both were presently to be hid from every eye, by being buried in some secret place; and both were to be examined at the return from the captivity. No account indeed that is tolerably probable has been given, that I know of, why There should be two distinct writings for this sale of land; but still less, why one should be sealed up, and the other left open.
I would then remark, that though one of them is said to be sealed, it doth not follow that it was sealed in such a manner as not to be opened. Many a conveyance of land has been sealed among us, and rendered valid to all intents and purposes, without ever being secured so as not to be read. The distinction of one from the other by the circumstance of it's being sealed, while the second was open, seems to have been the cause of it's being understood to have been sealed up so as not to be opened; to which probably may be added, their recollecting the circumstance of a book being sealed, which on that account could not be read, mentioned by the prophet Ifajah, chap. xxix. 11. But though a letter,
which in their style might be called a book, might often be so sealed, it doth not at all follow, nor, I should think, is it at all
probable, that the book of the purchase of an estate, upon it's being sealed so as to become valid, was sealed so as to be shut
that none could read it. Let us drop then the idea of it's being hidden from the eye, and only sealed so as to be valid: probably' not with wax; but, according to the present Eastern manner, with ink.
Next it is to be observed, that the word translated open (the evidence or book which was open) is not that which is twice made ufe of Nehemiah viii. 5:
“ And Ezra open“ ed the book in the light of all the peo
ple, (for he was above all the people,) “ and when he opened it, all the people stood
up';” but is a word which signifies the revealing future events unto the minds of men, by a divine agency’, and it is, in particular, made use of in the book of Esther, to express a book's making known the decree of an earthly king, chap, viü. 13. “ of the writing, for a commandment to be
given in every province, was published unto “ all people,” or revealed, as it is translated in the margin.
They that look on the ori. ginal, will find it is the same Hebrew verb
" The copy
• Nor that used Neh. 6. 5, where mention is made of an open letter; nor that in Dan. 7. 10, which speaks of fitting in judgment, and opening books. i Sam. 3. 7, 21, Dan. 2. 19, 30, ch. 10. 1.
with that used in this 32d of Jeremiah; and the very fame participle of that verb.
The open book then of Jeremiah seems to signify, not it's being then lying open or unrolled before them, while the other was sealed
but the book that had revealed the will of God, to bring back Israel into their own country, and to cause buying and selling of houses and lands again to take place among them. It
appears, from the beginning of the 30th chapter, that Jeremiah had been commanded to write down the declaration God had made to him by the Prophetic Spirit, concerning the bringing back the captivity of Israel and Judah, and their repossessing the land given to their fathers”; now that writing, or the copy of some other similar prophecy, he produced upon this transaction, and commanded Baruch to inclose them both in the fame earthen vessel, which might be exhibited afterwards as a proof of the veracity of their prophets. I apprehend then the open book means a book of prophecy, opening and revealing the future return of Israel, and should somehow have been fo expressed as to convey that thought to the reader's mind, not as a little volume not sealed up, in contradiftinction from the state of the other little book ordered to be buried along with it, which was the purchase-deed.
* See ver. 3.