« PreviousContinue »
Between the Cherubim: yea, often placed
First Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears, Though, for the noise of drums and timbrels loud, Their children's cries unheard, that passed through fire To his grim idol. Him the Ammonite Worshipped in Rabba and her watery plain, In Argob, and in Basan, to the stream Of utmost Arnon. Nor content with such Audacious neighbourhood, the wisest heart Of Solomon he led by fraud to build His temple right against the temple of God
387. Between the Cherubim. See Ex. xxv. 17-22, and 1 Kings vi. 23-30.
388. Manasseh "built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord." 2 Kings xxi. 5.
392-405. The Ammonites were a people kindred to the Moabites (1. 406), both tribes being children of Lot. They dwelt to the east of the land of Gilead: Rabba was in the southern part of their territory; Argob, mentioned in 1 Kings iv. 13, as a part of Bashan, was farther north; the Arnon rises in the mountains of Gilead and flows into the Dead Sea,-utmost seems to mean near its source. It had been particularly forbidden that the Israelites should make their children" pass through the fire to Molech." Lev. xviii. 21; xx. 2-5. But there seems to have been a constant fascination about the worship, Ezek. xvi. 21. In later times, Solomon built "a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon." 1 Kings xi. 7, with 11. 404, 405; cf. Jeremiah vii. 30, 31. The name Gehenna means "the valley of Hinnom," which the Jews after the captivity regarded with detestation, using it for the casting out of all kinds of filth. This rubbish was constantly destroyed by great fires, so that the valley became the type of Hell, and the words Tophet and Gehenna have the meanings attached to them to-day.
On that opprobrious hill, and made his grove,
The flowery dale of Sibma clad with vines,
Peor his other name, when he enticed
406-418. Moab lay to the east of the Dead Sea, which throws up asphalt on its shores, and so is called in l. 411 "the asphaltic pool.” Aroär was a city on the southern border; Mt. Nebo and the mountains of Abarim were to the north. Further north still, were Sibma and Eleäle and Heshbon, the city of Sihon (Seon) King of the Amorites, Numb. xxi. 26, who had conquered a former king of Moab. Horonaim is mentioned by Isaiah and Jeremiah. The mention of Peor in Numb. xxv. is not very clear (cf. Ps. cvi. 28 and Hos. ix. 10) but Milton evidently conceives of Baal-peor, as he is there called as another name for Chemos. The Israelites passed through Shittim, as they came from Egypt. The hill of scandal is the hill mentioned in 1 Kings xi. 7, quoted in the note above. For "Josiah's zeal and reformation," see 2 Kings xxiii.
In connection with these lines the student should read in Appendix D, from the Judgment of Moab, Jeremiah xlviii., and the Burden of Moab, Isaiah xv. and xvi.
420. Old Euphrates. The Euphrates was the fourth of the rivers running out of Paradise, Gen. ii. 14.
The brook that parts, etc. The Besor, called in Joshua xv. 4 "the river of Egypt."
Of Baälim and Ashtaroth, those male,
Can execute their aery purposes,
For those the race of Israel oft forsook
422. Baälim. Im is a Hebrew plural ending as in Seraphim. Baäl was the name of the Phoenician sun-gods, found in different forms as Baäl, Baäl Peor, Baäl Zebub, etc. In like manner Ashtaroth is the Hebrew plural of Ashtoreth, the Phoenician Astarte, the goddess of the moon.
437-446. Astoreth, Hebrew for Astarte, a goddess having something in common with the Greek Artemis, but more with Aphrodite. Tyre and Sidon were the great coast towns of the Phoenicians. "The offensive mountain" is the "hill of scandal" of 1. 416, on which Solomon built idolatrous temples to the various gods of his many wives, whence he is called uxorious. In 1 Kings xi. 4, 5, the verses preceding those quoted above, we read that "it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart away after other gods. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Zidonians."
Beguiled by fair idolatresses, fell
446-457. Thammuz, fabled to have been slain by a boar on Mt. Lebanon, is the Greek Adonis. In this passage, however, Adonis is the river flowing from the mountain into the Mediterranean. The waters reddened by the turbid spring rains have been thought to have suggested the "annual wound." The yearly mourning for Adonis was a rite accompanied by various loose ceremonies which found its way among the children of Israel. See Ezek. viii. 14.
457-466. Dagon, the fish-shaped god of the Philistines, a people who gave their name to Palestine, although they inhabited only the south-west corner of it. Akron, Ashdod (Azotus in Acts viii. 40, is through the Greek), Gath, Ascalon, Gaza, were their five towns. They were constantly at war with the Israelites, cf. Judges xiii. 1. Some time after Samson, the Philistines captured the ark of the Lord and put it in the house of Dagon. "And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord and the head of Dagon, and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him." 1 Sam. v. 4.
460. Grunsel, threshold, ground-sill.
Of Palestine, in Gath, and Ascalon,
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused
467-476. Rimmon, a god of the Syrians. It was into the House of Rimmon that the King of Syria went to worship, leaning on the hand of Naaman, captain of his host, whose story may be read in 2 Kings v. Naaman was the leper who, on being bid by Elisha to bathe in Jordan, was enraged, thinking that Abana and Pharphar, "rivers of Damascus," were better than all the waters of Israel. Lucid means clear in a physical sense. As to Ahaz his idolatries may be read in 2 Kings xvi., or 2 Chron. xxviii.
476-489. Osiris and Isis were the chief deities, male and female, of Egypt. Orus, more commonly Horus, was the sun god.
481. Brutish forms. They were often presented as typified in animals.
483. Borrowed gold. The calf set up by Aaron for the children of Israel was made of the ornaments stolen from the Egyptians.
484. The calf in Oreb. Exod. xxxii.
The rebel king. Jereboam, who, fearing that the revolted Israelites would return to Rehoboam and the God of their fathers, set up two golden calves, one in Bethel and the other in Dan. 1 Kings xii.